Ellie Mahler passed from this earth to a better place on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at the end of a crisp, cold "blue bird" day. She had successfully overcome a bout with lymphoma in 2002 and was in remission, and she had overcome a 48-hour coma in 2006. She could not, however, overcome the pancreatic cancer that got a foothold before she was even aware it was there.
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Ellie was born to Charles and Sarah Kaufman on Nov. 7, 1937, in Brooklyn, N.Y. When she was six, the family moved to White Plains, N.Y. There, Ellie attended Eastview Junior High School and White Plains High School. She was active in extracurricular activities and was a member of the Tigerette marching squad that performed at football games.
Upon graduation, Ellie was accepted into Smith College in Northampton, Mass. There, she majored in economics and was president of Laura Scales House in her senior year. She also spent a great deal of time riding trains and sharing taxis with other "Smithies" traveling to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to visit a cadet and friend from White Plains High School, Mike Mahler. Two weeks after her graduation in June 1959, she and Mike walked down the aisle of the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point to start the first year of their 54-year marriage. In doing so, she also began her 23-year career as an Army wife, a member of that strong and independent sisterhood that worked together, played together, supported each other, and, yes, wept together, too. While stationed in Germany, Mike and Ellie's first daughter, Julie, was born. A few years later, while Mike was assigned to the faculty at the U.S. Military Academy, their second daughter, Jennifer, was born at West Point. In all, the Mahler family moved 23 times in 24 years.
Ellie weathered Vietnam and the TET offensive and was grateful when Mike came home in one piece. She was stationed in Germany with her husband when The Wall went up and she was in Heidelberg when the bombs went off in the Army headquarters a few blocks away where Mike worked. At age 36, Ellie found herself the "Old Lady" of a Cavalry Squadron and the "Mayoress" of a two-battalion post in Buedingen, Germany. The men were frequently gone on training exercises for six weeks at a time preparing for Cold War eventualities that fortunately never came to pass or patrolling the border between East and West Germany. It fell to Ellie to organize efforts to take care of the young wives who had never been out of their hometowns, let alone the U.S.A. They were stranded in a foreign country with their husbands in the field, unable to speak the language, with little money, no transportation, and, perhaps, a sick baby. Ellie was also responsible as a "volunteer" for organizing the daycare facility, a lending closet, a thrift shop, the local Army Community Service chapter and the local Red Cross chapter. In addition, she volunteered at the schools, organized benefits to raise funds, and was a gracious hostess at official social functions. Truly the Army got two for one when a husband was assigned to command a unit in those days.
Ellie and Mike raised two lovely, successful daughters, one of whom also graduated from Smith College, and the other from Wellesley. After the Army, Ellie spent 10 years in the Chicago area where Mike worked after leaving the service. During that time she worked in a secretarial service where she was known for her formidable editing skills. While living in Chicago, Ellie became interested in a newspaper article on trail riding in Montana. That eventually led to a little piece of the "last best place," two horses, and 30- to 40-day ski seasons at Bridger.
Ellie loved every bit of her 21 years in Bozeman – making wonderful new "old friends," watching the snow come and go on the Spanish Peaks from her windows, and enjoying the gift of a long and peaceful retirement with her best friend and partner of 54 years. This is a gift that no Army wife ever takes for granted.
Ellie was preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Sarah Kaufman, and her younger brother, Roger Kaufman. She is survived by her husband, Mike; her daughter, Julie, and her three children, David, Clara, and Devon of Houston, Texas; and her daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Mario Gamboa, and their two children, Isaac and Sophie, of Arlington, Va.
And when our work is done,
Our course on earth is run,
May it be said, "Well Done.
Be thou at peace."
A celebration of Ellie's life will be held at Dokken-Nelson Sunset Chapel on Monday, Dec. 23, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Arrangements are under the direction of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. Flowers or memorial donations to the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center are welcome. Interment will be a private family affair.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Dec. 15 to Dec. 22, 2013