Sister, aunt, friend, crafter, woodworker. Born on Feb. 8, 1960, in Ottawa; died on Feb. 8, 2014, in Sudbury, Ont., of a brain hemorrhage, aged 54.
Ellen strode through life with a flair for the dramatic and a boundless intellectual curiosity. Fly fishing, rock hounding, clothing design and accounting systems were some of the ventures in which she immersed herself.
Her personality reached across a broad spectrum of people as well. Whether it was kicking back, cracking open a beer and chilling with the guys, or browsing through shops, fussing over clothes and sipping wine, she would fit right in. Always an enthusiastic supporter of our haircuts, our styles, our achievements, she would exclaim, “I love it!”
Growing up with an artistic mother, one of four daughters, Ellen was a creative force in her own right; she designed patterns for the clothes she made, built twig furniture, hammered decks together, and always had a jewellery project on her workbench. In her hands, an everyday item could be reworked and transformed to take on a new life. She set high standards for herself, a quality instilled by our father. At times this would prove to be a positive influence, at others a roadblock to moving forward; many projects were left at the planning stage, as she tried to get things just right.
In 1998, at a crossroads in her computer job in Ottawa and personal life, Ellen decided to fulfill a dream. Hitting the road in her diesel VW she embarked on a remarkable solo journey through the United States to Mexico, no doubt with the blues she so loved playing the whole way.
Motoring into Baja, she claimed squatter’s rights to an ocean-side palapa for the next year and spent idyllic days kayaking and travelling to remote Mexican villages. She headed home in a car laden with colourful cloths, pottery, silver jewellery and an iconic cow skull that took centre stage in her living room.
A new focus on her return was the birth of her niece, my daughter Emma. Ellen set to work sewing baby outfits and learning to knit, making a sweater that garnered praise from knitters whenever Emma wore it. As her niece grew, they would knot a quilt together, paint, bead bracelets. They shared laughs and indulged in “dessert before dinner” trips to the neighbourhood Dairy Queen.
With Emma now a teenager and living abroad, Skype became their line of connection. During their last session, they were both bent over their projects, my daughter painting, Ellen sewing, and both of them chattering back and forth.
In the past year, Ellen had found a new resolve to move forward with her life in positive ways. It was her friend Michel, who called her his “ray of light,” and she was most certainly that to many who knew her. Independent, resourceful, charismatic and strong-willed, her exuberance and humanity resonated with friends and family. Uncannily, in her last e-mail to me, she closed with, “Remember to tell them what an influence your twin was.”
Laura Ruptash is Ellen’s twin.