passed away January 22, 2013, at age 95 in McKinleyville, California while
recovering from pneumonia. She was born Ellen Theodora Prange, the fourth
child of Helen and William Prange on September 28, 1917, in Crockett's
Bluff, Arkansas. Ellen's grandfather was the general merchandiser for the
town and he ran the grocery store, the feed store, the wagon shed, the ice
house, the post office and almost anything else you can think of! Ellen
loved helping her dad outside on the 160 acre ranch he owned. Ellen loved
working in the fruit, walnut and pecan orchards. She also started a
chinchilla rabbit farm. She attended Lutheran Christian Day School until
Ellen had five brothers and four sisters - Louis, Irene, Alfred, Esther,
William, Ernest, Ray, Verna Mae (still living in Washington State), and
Norma Jane. When her mother moved to Texas due to her health, Ellen (age
13) was left in charge of their home . When she was 15, the family left
Arkansas to join her mother in Cisco, Texas. Here she became a live-in
housekeeper for different families while attending high school.
As a high school senior, Ellen was a secretary for the Cisco Ford car
dealership, and while there was certified by their Detroit office as a
Senior Accountant. Later, she was a credit manager for the Herbert E.
Woodward Ford Agency in Beverly Hills, California. Ellen was playing
solitaire one day and heard an ad on the radio for a position with the U.S.
government. She said to herself, ""If I win this game, I will answer that
ad. Well, she won and at age 28, showing her adventurous, courageous
spirit, Ellen sailed out of New York Harbor, just at sunset, on an old
hospital ship, the Wisteria, headed for Tachikawa, Japan, to work as a
secretary at the Japan Air Material Area (JAMA).
In Japan, Ellen met Wayne Spurling, who also worked for the government after
his discharge from the U.S. Army
. They returned to the U.S., got married,
and lived in North Hollywood, then moved to Arcata in the early 50's for
Wayne to work at Humboldt State College. Wayne and Ellen were artistic
souls, sharing their passion for photography and building their own
darkroom. Many of you have black-and-white family pictures that Ellen
photographed, processed, and printed. The Arcata Union newspaper featured
many of her photos. Ellen also had a passion to care for people. As they
raised their six children, Ellen cared for other family's children in her
home. She also worked as the Music Department Secretary, and Cooperative
Fisheries Unit Secretary at HSU. During this time, she developed
relationships with students by helping with their Doctoral Thesis. After
retiring from HSU, Ellen became a Home Health Care Aid and cared for many
people in our community through volunteer service. She had a moral strength
that was unshakeable.
Ellen and Wayne raised six children in Arcata. Harry and his wife Patty
live in Willow Creek. Will and his wife Joanne live in Fields Landing and
have three children - Amy, Daniel and David. Daniel and his wife Wendy have
one child, Adeline. Will also had a daughter Leah who passed away in 2004,
mother of Ellen's other two great-grandchildren - Tyler and Tess. Patrick
and his partner Annetta Baumann live in Switzerland. Joy Smelser and her
husband Mark live in Fort Worth, Texas. Michelle Pontoni and her husband
Ron live in Bayside and have two children - Scott and Karen. Melody Poff
and her husband Troy live in Willits. Wayne passed away in 1997.
Ellen's advice for everyone is to exercise and stay active. In 1954, with
four pre-school children in Sunny Brae, she wrote this to her mother in
Texas, ""There's a lot to be happy about and a lot to be sad about but it's
better for your health to be happy, and with better health you can help the
sad situations to become happier ones.""
Thank you Dr. Copple and your staff at McKinleyville Community Health
Center, Mad River Community Hospital and Hospice of Humboldt for your
top-notch medical care. And thank you, thank you, thank you to the
amazing, awesome staff of Timber Ridge McKinleyville for caring for Ellen so
warmly for the past year.
At Ellen's request, no services will be held. Her family will gather
privately at a later date. Today is a good day to spend with those you
If you would like to recognize a charity in Ellen's name, a few of her
favorites are Hospice of Humboldt, Reading Service of the Redwoods, KEET TV,
and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Please sign the guestbook at www.times-standard.com
, click on obits.