Rosalind Oliver Ellis passed away on Monday, August 9, 2021. After surviving many bouts with pneumonia, she decided it was her time. She spent her final hours surrounded by family and loved ones, who gathered alongside her for a vigil of love, laughs, and memories.
Rosalind gained many affectionate nicknames throughout her life: Roz, Rozzy, Mom, Oba, Sister, Aunt, and, to her many students, Mrs. Ellis. She was the consummate caretaker and provider, raising three daughters, five standard poodles, and influencing many lives in Ketchikan and beyond. She commanded great authority from the kitchen, serving her love to others through endless nuts n’ bolts, sweet treats, hors d ‘oeuvres, cocktails, and gourmet dinners. She loved living vicariously through her family members, relishing in-person visits as much as WhatsApp group texts to keep up to date with her progeny’s adventures.
Born on May 24, 1936, in Oakland, CA, Roz graduated with a teaching degree from Cal’ Berkeley and commenced teaching nearby. Her radiant beauty and warm personality attracted many but caused Ketchikan-born US Navy Pilot Peter Ellis to hit the arrestor cable. They were married in 1959 and, soon after, moved north to Alaska. Roz quickly traded her high heels for XtraTufs but always carried her trademark accents of Joy perfume and brilliant red lipstick. She took on every challenge Ketchikan threw, learning new skills such as dip-netting, filleting, and smoking s`almon, building beach fires, and staying dry.
Roz loved teaching and used every opportunity to turn life into an exchange of ideas and learning. She taught for a year in Ketchikan at Main School before raising her girls and then returned and retired as a Home School Correspondence teacher. She and her fellow teachers could have had a “reality teacher” channel. From dodging indoor ducks, chickens, and pigs, to changing tires, carrying flares, and a tow rope, she loved her students and adventures. These rewarding years filled many a cocktail hour with entertaining stories of off-the-grid tutelage all over Revillagigedo Island.
Throughout her life, Roz was the quintessential entertainer and hostess. Round tables were a prerequisite to dynamic conversations in every house, with seating ranging from 4 to 24 (thanks to Peter’s DIY plywood extensions). Surprise guests added to many a raucous dinner, where we all learned the codes “FHB” for family-hold-back or “MIK” for more-in-the-kitchen servings. Round tables and “White Gloves and Party Manners” (by Young and Buchwald) will be legacies for generations to come.
Her passions and routines enriched her life. In addition to cooking, she shared with others through painting, home improvement projects, intricate puzzles, endless knitting patterns, daily 0500 swims, and gardening. She loved football and was a Seahawk senior cheerleader. For most of the family, she was the best part of every game.
Mom was most relaxed hanging out at “Roz’s Roost”, the family’s one-room cabin on the former “Ellis Island” in Ward Cove. She reluctantly embraced the family’s S/V Sunshine, but always made magic in the galley and entertained her troops subsistence fishing at Kegan Cove every summer. While Roz’s Roost and Ellis Island are now part of history, trips to Kegan Cove are still made every summer. She was also a sun worshipper, especially in the Hawaiian heat. We remember her beloved purple bikini swimsuit, a four-decade old relic, with fondness and laughter.
She had fun leaving red kiss prints on everyone she loved and would want us to make sure we extended love and gratitude to those who were especially supportive in the last few years of her life. Endless thanks to her great friends Margaret and Tore Lynne and her wonderful PeaceHealth medical teams, clinics, departments and home health staff, especially the entire team that supported her and helped us grieve through her final 24 hours - our family sings your praises.
We love and will miss you forever, Mom. You were and always will be our Oba, our teacher, and our confidant.
Roz is survived by daughters Marzette, Brigette, and Janette, and their families: Geoff, Sabra and husband Beau, and Jared; the late Marvin Oliver, Brian, Lisa and husband Zeki, Owen, Izzy, and Sam; Kevin, Ellis and daughter Addison, and Alec; her sister Marzette; brother Steve and wife Nancy; and many more family and friends. We will share her memories and toast her love for decades to come.
We would love to hear your personal memories of Roz - please send your stories to Post Office Box 6464, Ketchikan, AK 99901. If you would like to honor Roz, Ketchikan’s First City Players gave her great joy throughout her life.