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Traverse City, MI 49684
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Ellen Kay Barnes

1928 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Ellen Kay Barnes Obituary
Ellen Kay Barnes

Traverse City - Ellen Kay Barnes, 90 passed away at home on the Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, on December 16th, 2018, in the loving presence of family and caregivers. She was born at home in Detroit on March 26, 1928. She graduated from Cooley High School and later, Wayne State University, with a major in Romance languages. Ellen was a woman of many qualities: grand, gracious, independent, passionate, warm and loyal. She did modeling for ad agencies and was a hostess at auto shows. She loved music and dancing at Detroit's "Black and Tan" jazz clubs. Her job as a travel counselor at AAA on Bagley Ave in Detroit led to sixty years of marriage and travel adventures with Motor News/Michigan Living editor Leonard R. Barnes, acting as his loving wife, "Sherpa," translator and social ambassador. She was a perceptive and dedicated partner, whose people and language skills resolved many difficult situations far from home. She was an efficient household manager, and maintained a welcoming place in which to host many dinner and cocktail parties that went far into the night.

Ellen was a good neighbor and active community member in Berkley and Pleasant Ridge MI, where she was a Campfire leader for her daughter's troop. As a summer resident on Bar Road (Empire, MI) and later Port Oneida, she enjoyed walking the beaches and woods accompanied by various dogs and cats who chose her as their companion.

She was a good listener, interested conversationalist and an excellent correspondent, maintaining friendships and connections across the years and around the world. She read aloud to her children long after we could read ourselves, for the love of the stories.

In her final years, she enjoyed the splendor of sunrises and moonrises over the bay, reveling in the beauty of Northern Michigan that she taught her entire family to love. Feeding and watching the crows, songbirds, foxes and other wildlife was a ritual and daily pleasure shared by all who stopped to sit at her kitchen table. The family would like to thank the medical community of Traverse City and the dedicated group of caregivers who shared these joys and made it possible for Ellen to remain comfortably at home.

Ellen was predeceased by her husband of sixty years, Leonard R. Barnes in 2014. She is survived by her children Hilary Barnes (David Ortland) of Bellevue, WA, Julia Barnes of Zandaam, Netherlands, Stephen Barnes (Kathi) of Traverse City, MI, and nine granddaughters, four great-grandsons, one great-granddaughter and her two best friends from kindergarten and second grade.

We will always remember her playing the piano and singing favorite show tunes, most poignantly Jerome Kern's: "So (we) smile and say when a lovely flame dies, /Smoke gets in your eyes."

A celebration of life will be held at a later date, when interment will take place at Maple Grove Cemetery in Elk Rapids. Contributions to Hospice of Michigan or the in Ellen's name are welcomed.

Please visit to share your thoughts with the family on Ellen's tribute page.

The family is being cared for by the Reynolds Jonkhoff Funeral Home.

Published in The Detroit News & Detroit Free Press on Feb. 3, 2019
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