Ellen Melsness was born May 13, 1930 to John Albin Johnson and Mae Louise Pratt in Bradford, Pa. She went to be with her Savior on April 19, 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease at Vista Mesa Assisted Living.
After graduating from high school Ellen went to nursing school in Chicago. She graduated from Swedish Covenant Hospital in 1952. Ellen then attended Case Western Reserve where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Ellen decided to move west and was a nurse in Tohatchi, N.M. where she met the love of her life, James Melsness. After the wedding, Jim and Ellen moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. so he could finish his education. While living in Flagstaff two sons joined the family, Eric and Rod.
The family then moved to Fort Defiance, Ariz., on the Navajo Reservation. Ellen worked nights at the hospital while the kids were younger. She then became the school nurse. Her kids always teased her that they couldn’t fake being sick or she would come home with a shot. During this time a daughter, Lori, was added to the family. Friendships that were formed while living in Fort Defiance are still as strong as they were then. Unfortunately, after several years on the reservation it was time to move. Jim and Ellen traveled to Phoenix to be near his parents. It was decided over lunch on a very hot day that Phoenix was not going to be their new home. They traveled back to Mancos, Colo. where 20 acres of land had been a vacation spot for many years.
A home was purchased in Cortez. Jim found a job teaching in Dolores. Ellen found a job in Towaoc. For more than 23 years Ellen was the Public Health Nurse for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. She also traveled to White Mesa one day a week. Ellen loved the people and her job at Towaoc. Home visits and new babies were her favorite parts of the job. Many friends were made while working in Towaoc. She may have forgotten someone’s name, but she never forgot their face.
When Jim’s health declined Ellen retired to stay home and take care of him. After his passing in 1997 Ellen’s retirement began. Unfortunately, Ellen was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She faced it with courage and faith. Ellen’s faith and positive attitude helped her beat the cancer. She kept a smile on her face and never complained. After her recovery, Ellen’s active life returned.
Ellen was an active member of the First Baptist Church. Anytime someone needed a helping hand she was there. She was even chosen Citizen of the Year for Cortez.
Her greatest joy was spending time with her family. She loved hiking, camping, fishing, four wheeling, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and any other activity outside. In 2004, at the age of 74, Ellen climbed Handies Peak at an elevation of 14,048 feet with her hiking buddies, Joyce and Ruth Ann.
Ellen loved spending time with her granddaughters, Alex and Kasey. She was very proud of them and loved them very much. Her proudest moments were when she traveled to see them right after they were born. In 1993 Ellen drove to Littleton to see Alex, her first granddaughter. At this time her son Eric began teasing her and affectionately calling her “Granny Gruff”. From then on she was known to everyone as Granny. In 1997, when Kasey was born, Ellen traveled from Cortez to Bailey, Colo. in a horrible snow storm. She was not going to miss seeing her second granddaughter.
In 2009, Ellen’s family made a difficult decision to move her to Madison House. Ellen had always told them that when the time came she wanted to live there. The hardest thing for her was leaving behind her golden retriever named Hana. Ellen loved it when Lori would come get her and take her to their house to spend the day with Hana. Ellen’s good friend Wilma would also pick her up several times a week to go to the lazy river at the recreation center. The “hiking ladies” would also pick her up when they were going on a shorter hike or to get together for lunch. She also continued spending time outdoors with her family.
In August of 2011 Ellen’s health was declining and the family searched for a new “home” for her. Their prayers were answered the minute they visited Vista Mesa Assisted Living. Granny settled into her new home. She especially liked the Sunday Service with Marvin Graves and his wife, Paula. When Ellen’s time came, Dr. McAlpin, the caregivers of Hospice of Montezuma County, and the staff at Vista Mesa gave Ellen the gift of being able to go to the Lord in her own bed.
A Celebration of Life was held for Ellen at the First Assembly of God Church in Cortez on April 21, 2012. Marvin Graves performed the ceremony.
Ellen is survived by her sons, Eric Melsness of Cortez, and Rod Melsness and wife Heather of Bailey, Colo.; and her daughter, Lori Farris and husband, Steve of Cortez. Granny is also survived by her granddaughters, Alex and Kasey Melsness of Bailey, Colo. Ellen also leaves behind her sisters, Ruth Morris of Cortez, and Anna Drum of Hendersonville, N.C.; and a brother John Johnson and wife, Donna of Warren, Penn.; and many nieces and nephews.
To send condolences, log on to www.ertelfuneralhome.com and click on the obituary section.