Crops Produce 06

Eleanor Helm Ketcham

October 2, 1928 ~ November 6, 2021 (age 93)


Eleanor Helm Ketcham passed away Saturday after a battle with listeria. She had just turned 93 years old.

Eleanor devoted her life to family and community and everyone who met her immediately felt valued and loved. If the world were full of people like her, our problems would shrink dramatically in scale and challenge.

Eleanor (known to almost all as Ellie) spent her life in four wonderful communities. Her childhood was spent in Montclair, New Jersey, the daughter of Mary and Harold Helm and the sister of John Helm. She attended the Kimberly School and then Wellesley College where she later served as Class President which she noted, as an octogenarian, was made possible by the thinning of the competition. She started raising her family in Montclair (Verona) after marrying John Ketcham who pre-deceased her in 2018.

After moving to the Cleveland area in 1967, Ellie moved to her second significant community, Toledo, Ohio, in 1971. There she guided her three children, Jim, Cliff, and Mary, through Ottawa Hills High School where she served as a parent volunteer before re-entering the work force first for the Medical College of Ohio and then as Director of the Voluntary Action Center, a United Way agency.

The empty nester stage of her life was spent in her third major community, Elon, North Carolina where she and John built a retirement community that involved senior houses, over 50 senior apartments and a 72 bed Assisted Care Living Facility. She counted the development of Blakey Hall and the Hamlet as true Alamance County community assets of which she was very proud.

In Elon, Ellie had her most significant professional experience as the District Administrator for the Guardian Ad Litem program, an organization that represented the interests of abused and neglected children in Juvenile Court. Over her ten years of service there, she increased the number of volunteers from 6 to 47 and, through that work, greatly improved the lives of some of the neediest children in Alamance County.

While she was extremely proud of her work with Guardian Ad Litem, she was perhaps more proud of her work establishing a PFLAG (parents, family and friends of lesbian and gays) chapter in Alamance County. She never stopped her involvement with PFLAG.

Finally, the Elon Community Church was both a source of inspiration and solace to Ellie. She held many positions there helping to advance the ECC’s mission.

After retiring she earned a Masters Degree in Sociology from UNC Greensboro exactly 50 years after she earned her college degree from Wellesley (BA History).

Ellie’s fourth significant community was Martha’s Vineyard where she spent time almost every single year of her life. The Vineyard was such a special place for her and one where she spent more and more time as she advanced in age. Some of the most special places on the Vineyard were her homes on Quitsa Lane and Pancake Hollow, the beaches on both sides of Squibnocket Point, the Chilmark Community Center, the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and the Menemsha seafood markets (Poole’s and Larsen’s).

Ellie was an active tennis player and skier, always the last to leave the social hour following church services, a determined participant in family card games, a passionate Democrat who fought hard for progressive causes, a proud daughter of Kentuckians who always relished her time with her extended Kentucky family, an amazing grandmother to her five grandchildren, Joe and Ellie Sterner and Kristy, Katie and Mike Ketcham, a beloved Mother-in-Law to Dana, James and David, and a dog lover who so appreciated her time with Wiggles, Honey, Shadow, Charlie and Mickey among others.

There will be a funeral service on November 16th at Elon Community Church at 1pm and a burial is planned on Martha’s Vineyard this summer where she will rest peacefully alongside John, her husband of 63 years.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Elon Community Church UCC or Alamance county Pflag.

To plant a tree in memory of Eleanor Helm Ketcham, please click here.


Memorial Service
November 16, 2021

1:00 PM
Elon Community Church UCC
271 N. Williamson Avenue
Elon, NC 27244

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