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Ellen Harris Summers Obituary

Ellen Harris Summers

Ellen Harris Summers died peacefully at her home in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday, December 26, 2012, at the age of 92.

She was born on September 29, 1920, in Spokane, Washington, the sixth of seven children of Joy Paxton Harris and Clara Hutchinson Harris.

She grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho, and attended local schools. In 1939, she married John J. Summers from nearby Sagle, Idaho. They were married for 54 years, until his death in 1993. She was predeceased by all of her brothers and sisters.

After her husband's death, Ellen Summers moved east, to Charlottesville, to be nearer her son and daughter, David Summers, a professor in the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia, and Marilynne Summers Robinson, a professor in the Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Together with her son and daughter, she is survived by her five wonderful grandchildren, James and Joseph Robinson, Benjamin and Timothy Summers, and Mary Summers Whittle. She also saw another generation of six great-grandchildren.

Her great pleasures in life were her family and the community of First Presbyterian Church. She also loved gardening, and an unbroken series of dogs, usually dachshunds, but finally Sophie, a poodle. She was a lovely woman with a gift for creating loveliness around her. She was a delightful friend and companion to many. The acuteness of her mind and her ready sense of humor never failed her, and never failed her friends. Her loving companion of many years, Sandra Herring, was assisted by Thelma Scott, Stephanie Herring, and Robin Garrison in helping and comforting her in countless ways in the last year of her life. She could never thank them enough, nor can her family thank them enough, for their constant gentle care. Hospice of the Piedmont provided unfailingly prompt, professional and humane support throughout.

Ellen Summers never forgot Idaho, where she left so many memories when she came to Virginia. In the back of her mind she was always young, skiing in the winter, swimming and playing tennis in the summer under bright skies. Her ashes will be interred with those of her husband John in Sandpoint, overlooking the great Lake Pend Oreille, where they spent the youth that formed their souls, the place that for them might be the heaven where their souls are young again.

A memorial service will be scheduled for a later date. In lieu of flowers remembrances should be sent to Hospice of the Piedmont at 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911.

Friends may send condolences to the family at


This obituary was originally published in the Daily Progress.
Read Full Obituary for Ellen Summers
Published online on December 30, 2012 courtesy of Daily Progress.

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