#8216;Newcomer#8217; saw what makes Ironton special

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bill Ellis wasn’t from southern Ohio in body, but I would certainly argue that the man was from here in spirit.

The quiet, articulate man who embraced Ironton as a home and community was able to see what makes the Ironton area special and he was able to appreciate it in ways that many of the region’s native sons and daughters will never grasp.

The 74-year-old Westerville native passed away late last month after battling tonsil cancer since 2005, a loss that will be felt for years to come by those who care about Ironton.

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Ellis wasn’t born and raised here. He didn’t have family here. He and his wife Dana simply were drawn to Ironton in 1999 because of a few chance visits. The couple said they felt welcomed by the close-knit community in ways they hadn’t seen elsewhere.

Bill was quick to point out that the Ironton community and the wonderful people in it had given him so much.

And as was typical to his modest personality, Bill always neglected to mention all that he gave to Ironton.

The slender man with the neatly trimmed beard and mustache was an instrumental volunteer behind many Ironton Lions Club projects including the Haunted Tunnel and the sponsorship of two seeing-eye dogs. Ellis also worked tirelessly with others to keep the historic Memorial Day Parade rolling along and he was instrumental in developing the Patriot’s Path at Woodland Cemetery, something in which he took great pride.

“It is standing proud up there,” Ellis told me several years ago, with the pain showing in his voice and eyes as he discussed battles to stop vandalism at the monument. “It is a nice memorial and a tribute to all our veterans.”

Every visitor to Woodland Cemetery should take a minute to visit Patriot’s Path and say ‘thanks’ to the veterans that it honors and also to Ellis, an individual that was instrumental in making this a reality.

In recent years, Bill and Dana moved to Waverly as the man continued to battle health problems. Still, his friends say that Ironton was never far from his thoughts nor was it far from his heart.

Even as his health was failing, Ellis was passionate about the community, wanting to see it grow and prosper. That type of caring is just one of the things that made him so special and allowed him to have such an impact.

While Ellis may be gone from this physical world, his legacy will live on in the projects he poured himself into.

I am sure that Ellis is in Heaven right now, joined by his friends and fellow Lions members Frank McCown and Charlie Koontz, looking for ways to get involved and make even that place better, just as the men tried to do here in Ironton.

Those wanting to honor Ellis can do so by supporting something that he held dear: Programs for the sight impaired. Memorial contributions may be made to: Pilot Dogs, Inc., 625 W. Town St., Columbus, OH 43215.

Ellis visited the center several years ago and once told me that he didn’t have the words to describe how important this program is to those who are vision impaired.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan once said, “I have been very happy with my homes, but homes really are no more than the people who live in them.”

Bill Ellis would certainly have agreed. He was proud to call Ironton home, even if it was for just a few years. Ironton should be proud to have called him a resident.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.