Paula Jane Ellis Stephenson
April 7, 1929 - May 19, 2018
Long Version, Updated May 21
Written May 2018 by Paula & children
Paula Jane Ellis was born April 7, 1929, six months before the Wall Street Crash of Oct. 29, 1929. Paula lived six weeks past her 89th birthday, and died on May 19, 2018, one day before Pentacost Sunday. Paula was a baptized woman of faith in Jesus Christ, and early in her life she began her devotion to God in communion with the Holy Spirit and the Christian fellowship of the Episcopal Church.
Paula hopes to be greeted in heaven by family members she outlived, including her father Dr. Paul Marvin Ellis and mother Elizabeth Davies Ellis, her sister Marcia Gertrude Ellis Hicks (bearing an empty huckleberry bucket), her brother David Thomas Ellis, and her nephew Gwin Simmons Hicks. She also outlived all three of her husbands (her third adored partner, Don Springer, died before a formal marriage). David Gordon Pettengill (another avid camper) and Thomas Lee Stephenson (famous for saying “don’t over-do”) were her first and second long-lasting husbands. She is survived by her four children Laura (husband Byron Lanphear), Paul (wife Claress), David (partner Sue Novak), and Susan. Paula’s two beloved nieces, daughters of her sister Marcia, are Elizabeth Hicks Klingler (husband Dan) and Mary Hicks Miller (husband Bret). Paula's nieces have blessed the family with the next generation in the Ellis line: Aubry & David Klingler, and Mark & Jack Miller.
Paula was an Idaho mountain girl from the small mining town of Wallace, and the story of her personal and family life took place in the context of nearly nine fascinating decades of change in society and technology. She adapted intelligently to all this change with surprising grace and much understanding. During Paula’s life she experienced the Great Depression of the 1930s; World War II; the tumultuous 1960s, the availability color television; the advent of the internet and personal computers during the 1990s, and so forth into the new millennium.
Paula was the first child of Dr. Paul Marvin Ellis (July 17, 1897 - January 31, 1984) and Elizabeth Davies Ellis (January 20, 1902 - October 30, 1979). Her father was the town doctor, and her mother was a beloved and respected high school teacher. Her father’s first job was at the Wallace Hospital, which he eventually owned and ran, and during Paula’s early years they lived at a rented home at 140 King Street. As Paula noted in a separate two-page story she wrote on her life: “I always liked King Street in Wallace. There were many young couples living on that street raising children. Many of us played together on a path that went almost the whole length of the hill on the west side.”
The Ellis family moved into their own home at 412 Third Street when Paula was eight, and her mother was expecting her sister Marcia (b. March 19, 1937). Paula spent her pre-high school years attending the Wallace Public Grade School located 2 -1/2 blocks from their Third Street home, and graduated from 8th grade in May of 1942.
Beginning in the summer of 1939 at the age of 10, Paula spent 10 summers at her beloved Camp Sweyolakan (Sweyolakan means “Sigh of the Pines”), which is a summer camp for Campfire Girls on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. While still in high-school Paula was a counselor at the camp during the war because of the shortage of available adults. She was at Camp Sweyolakan on June 5, 1945 at the age of 16 when a man came across the lake in a boat bearing the news of the Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany. Paula’s story of this day includes the comment that “the counselors were dancing and clapping on the dock.” Her favorite camp memories included expeditions in the war canoes, swimming, star gazing, campfires and songs. She made lasting friends at camp and kept in touch with Ruby Hild, who was five years older.
In August of 1942, Paula began attending high school at St. Paul’s School for Girls inWalla Walla Washington. She graduated from high school in May of 1946, and in the fall of 1946 began classes at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois (far from her Idaho home). On June 16, 1952, Paula was awarded a Bachelors of Science degree in the College of Liberal Arts. During her college years she was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta Sorority. While Paula was away at college, the Ellis family moved to the Beale House at 107 Cedar Street, and that house is now part of Historic Wallace. Built in 1904, it was restored during 1987 - 1994 and transformed into a bed & breakfast.
On September 4, 1952 Paula married David G. Pettengill at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Wallace ID. Paula met husband David at Northwestern University. On their honeymoon they took the Gilkie tent trailer used for camping by the Pettengill family since the 1930’s to the Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde national park. They then continued across the country to Florida with a stop in New Orleans. During the first year of their marriage they moved into the Ocean Terrace Apartments in Del Ray Beach, FL (these apartments still exist). This was a one-story building right on the beach where husband David’s parents stayed during the winter. Paula remembered that “Christmas day 1952 was really beautiful with a lot of Manta Rays swimming right off the beach.” Paula took driving lessons, and David managed the apartments until the owners decided to take over.
After a year in Florida the couple moved to husband David’s hometown of Libertyville, Illinois, and lived with David’s parents until their first daughter Laura was born on September 12, 1953. The new parents rehabbed a house that was moved from Cook Street to 518 North First Street in the fall of 1953, and moved in with their daughter Laura. During the next six years the couple produced three more children: Paul (b. May 10, 1957), David (b. July 24, 1958), and Susan (b. July 16, 1960). During the 1960s and 1970s, the four kids went to the public schools (unlike their parents who attended private schools). The First Street house was just 3 blocks from the grade school. Paula was a homemaker during this time, while her husband David commuted to work at his job as a public relations manager.
Most summers were spent at the idyllic summer cabin owned by David Pettengill’s father. That cabin, build in the 1930’s and named “Holiday House” still stands on the shores of Lake Charlevoix in Michigan. Paula watched over her four children at the cabin while husband David worked and visited on weekends. Paula’s Camp Sweyolakan skills of canoeing, walking in the woods, wildflower identification, swimming, star gazing, and a formidable repertoire of campfire songs became part of the summer experience for the children also. Those high days of summer still live in the memories of all the family. The girls stayed in the lower bedroom of the cabin, and the boys stayed in the Gilkie tent trailer parked next to the cabin under the cedar trees. That Gilkie tent trailer was still used for many other camping trips by the family in the 1960s. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan has a Gilkie Tent Trailer in their collection.
When the marriage of Paula and David ended in 1976, Paula stayed in Libertyville through her daughter Susan’s high school graduation in 1978, and they then went on a fabulous one-month trip together to Britain. After Paula’s mother Elizabeth passed away in 1979, Paula returned to her hometown of Wallace Idaho in 1980 to take care of her aging father. Until her father passed away in 1984, Paula worked as the Payroll Supervisor at the Sunshine Mine.
While in Wallace during the mid-1980s, Paula met and later married a home-town widower named Thomas Lee Stephenson, a fellow church member at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Wallace. Tom ran a small bookstore under the apartment Paula briefly rented in Wallace after her father passed away and she sold the family home. They married on April 13, 1985 at Emmanuel Episcopal, Kellogg, ID, and during the remaining years of his life Tom and his family were very good to Paula. Paula & Tom lived for nearly 15 years at 215 E. Fir Street in Osburn, ID (not far from Wallace), until Tom passed away in early 2000. Paula enjoyed being married to a man whose church was important to him. They spent many summers at Babbin’s RV Park on the North Fork of the Coeur D’Alene, and Paula’s entire family attended her 70th birthday party at that Park. Tom was a kind and patient man, a good cook, and a wonderful husband.
After Tom’s passing, Paula stayed active in her church as a lay reader and chalice bearer. The Book of Common Prayer and the services at Holy Trinity were deeply meaningful to Paula and were the basis for a delight in the church that stayed with her always.
Paula continued to live in Osburn for the next 11 years, and in the early part of the decade of 2000 was courted by and fell in love with a local man named Don Springer. Don was a retired mining geologist and engineer, and a barbershop quartet singer and participant in Community Theater. He treated Paula to many fun nights out before being diagnosed with a fast-acting cancer that caused his death on May 17, 2002. Paula was mentioned as his companion in Don’s obituary. When Don passed way, Paula had out-lived her last companion, except for the dogs that she kept until the year before her own death.
Paula’s travels included two especially memorable trips with son David and his partner Sue. The first to mention is their trip to canoe in the Quetico Provincial Park of Canada, fulfilling a long-desired wish to see that country. Later, after the death of her husband Tom, she visited New Zealand with both David and Sue. During the years 2003 - 2016, Paula also travelled, canoed, and camped with her children in Idaho and Montana. Camping trips into the back-country of the Bitteroot range at Sand Basin with her daughter Laura were a highlight. She hiked into Granite Park Chalet in Glacier Park at the age of 74 and rode a horse to Sperry Chalet in Glacier Park at the age of 84. All her children can remember spending afternoons with Paula at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.
In April 2011, Paula moved to Whitefish Montana to be closer to her family, and rented the nice house at 927 Second Street East provided by Sue Novak. Paula was warmly welcomed by Chapter D of the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization), the Whitefish Chapter of the Women of the Moose, and the All Saints Community Episcopal Church. Whitefish was kind to Paula and she enjoyed the lively atmosphere of the town, the parades by her front door, the active and diverse church, Father Bradley’s Christmas story, and the kind staff at Bookworks and Third Street Market.
Because of rapidly declining health after being diagnosed with ALS in mid-March 2018, Paula in her last month moved to the assisted living center called Beehive Homes of Columbia Falls. The Beehive staff was a great help, and with the help of Frontier Hospice she was attended continually by son David and daughter Susan until her death at 12:30 AM May 19, 2018. Funeral home services are provided by Austin Funeral and Cremation Services, 807 Spokane Ave Suite 300, Whitefish, MT 59937.
Memorial services will be held on Friday, May 25, 11 AM at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2048 Conn Rd, Columbia Falls, MT 59912 (406-862-2863) https://www.allsaintsmt.org/.
In lieu of flowers Paula’s wish is for donations to be sent to:
·All Saints' Episcopal Church, Whitefish-Columbia Falls Montana: PO Box 1923 Whitefish, MT 59937
·Doctors Without Borders
·Frontier Hospice – Friends of Hospice – Kalispell, 42 Bruyer Way, Kalispell, MT 59901
May Paula’s soul rest in peace.