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James O. Ellis

October 6, 1921 December 12, 2020
James O.  Ellis
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Obituary for James O. Ellis

James Orrin Ellis

It is with great sadness we share the news that on December 12, 2020, our father, James Orrin Ellis, passed away. He was 99 years old and easily on his way to 100 when he was struck down by COVID-19.
Jim’s wife of 53 years, Josephine Canzonetti Ellis, passed away in 2000. He leaves behind his five children—Nancy Doss and her husband Ralph, Gregory Ellis and his wife Sheila, Wendy Ellis Peterkin and her husband Jim, Jeffrey Ellis and Roxanne Ellis, and Jamie Ellis and his wife Bonni. He also leaves behind his 16 grandchildren—Lisa Ruf, Kristen Addy, Molly (Ellis) Goddard, Megan Peterkin, Caitlin (Peterkin) Carter, Matthew Ellis, Andrew Ellis, Katharine (Ellis) Nagel, Courtney (Ellis) Cohen, Ian Ellis, Delaney (Ellis) Sanello, Milo Ellis, Scott Snyder, Suzanne Snyder, Traci (Doss) Cooley, and Todd Doss, along with their spouses, and 23 great-grandchildren.
Jim was born October 6, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York, the second son and third child of Russell and Winnie Ellis. He spent his childhood in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington D.C., and New York. He was 9 years old when the Great Depression took hold, and his family felt its impact severely. He graduated from Curtis High School in Staten Island, NY in 1939, where he had excelled in athletics ("Red Ellis" the newspapers called him, for his shock of red hair). He later served in the United States Army during World War II, went to Officers Candidate School, received the rank of lieutenant, and ultimately became a paratrooper. During wartime he married Dorothy Wetzel, and their daughter Nancy was born.
Both before and after the war he attended and worked at Columbia University. It was in New York City, after the end of his first marriage, that he met his second wife, Josephine Canzonetti. They were married in New Britain, Connecticut in 1947, and beginning in 1950 their children Greg, Wendy, Jeff, and Jamie were born.
Jim had a bent for mathematics as a child, and at one point even considered becoming a mathematician. His mind was shining, probing, and logical. He turned that mind to business, beginning in the areas of time-study and production control, but eventually expanding in the 1960s to use computer systems to solve complex business problems. Over the years he worked for a number of companies and was a pioneer in designing and implementing financial and manufacturing systems.
Jim retired from the manufacturing and technology world in the mid-1980s, but there was nothing "retiring" about him. He served as a volunteer mentor with SCORE, a nonprofit organization that partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and he continued his lifelong commitment to physical fitness and activity. He loved the outdoors, from Cumberland Falls to Yosemite, and even in his 90s enjoyed walking in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Jim also loved music, particularly listening to his wife Jo sing—whether in person or in her recordings—and he took tremendous pleasure in hearing and watching his family’s musical performances. And even in his 90s he continued challenging his mind and tapping into his own creative side, at 98 still doing pencil sketches and mind puzzles. Through it all he had an unshakeable sense of humor. We, all five of his children, are fortunate to have inherited his love of laughter.
Jim's anchor was always his family. It was the bedrock of his existence; it informed all that he did, and he delighted in traveling to spend time with his children and grandchildren in California, Ohio, Colorado, and Illinois as often as possible, where he attended as many of their artistic, academic, and sports performances as he could fit it. When asked once, given his many years on earth, "what are you worth?" he answered, “Millions,” although he had no such financial wealth. “How better,” he explained, “to express the profound and abiding joy that each of my children has provided me?”
We miss him deeply. He will be with us always.
We love you, Dad. God bless you.
A private ceremony was held for Jim on December 18, 2020, at Craver-Riggs Funeral Home & Crematory. In his remembrance, please consider making a donation to a charity of your choice, or to the Alzheimer’s Association in the name of his wife, Josephine Canzonetti Ellis.

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