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Life Story / Obituary
Loving, generous, and kind, Ellen Frith lived a life rich in faith and family. A woman who embodied the principles of her faith, Ellen welcomed each day as a gift. She was intelligent, considerate, thoughtful, and protective of others. An amazing wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, Ellen will long be remembered.
1951 proved a year of increased comforts and exciting new possibilities. While unemployment dropped to 3.3%, the nation additionally celebrated the first direct-dial trans-coastal phone call, easier travel in more comfortable cars and on newly paved interstates, and the premieres of "I Love Lucy," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and "An American in Paris.", nowhere was the sense of hope for the future more celebrated than in the hearts of Richard and Shirley Reif as they welcomed their daughter, Ellen Elizabeth, to their family on October 3 in Cortland, New York.
Ellen's earliest years were rooted in faith and family. Along with her siblings, Tom, Margie, Edward, and Steve, Ellen attended Catholic school and spent much of her time playing with her siblings and the neighborhood kids. Ellen's mother was of Irish descent, and her father was of German descent. Her mother worked as an elementary school teacher and volunteered as an English teacher to many. Her father was an accountant/bookkeeper at Smith Corona Corporation and served in the Air Force as a radioman on a bomber plane during World War II.
While in Cortland, the family was fortunate to live on a dead-end street with very little traffic. Summer was all about neighborhood games; riding bikes, roller skating kickball, hopscotch, kick the can, capture the flag and Canasta which they played almost daily. She taught her brother, Edward, her version of “one potato, two potato”, and was always kind, making sure he “the winner”. In the winters they spend their time playing duck-duck-goose and tobogganing. For a time, Ellen and her sister, Marge, took dance and piano lessons, performing at an annual recital and regular in-home recitals.
The family moved to Manlius, New York, when Ellen was in the 8th grade. Ellen was the “protector” and was always looking out for her siblings. Having moved to a new city and changing schools, Ellen knew her little brother was anxious about his new school, where to go, and how to walk there. So off they went on a field trip. She made sure he knew what he was doing so he was good to go the next day.
She was an excellent student, was inducted into The National Honor Society when she was in her Junior year of high school, and graduated with one of the highest GPA’s in her class. Many fun memories of swimming and tobogganing at Green Lakes State Park were made, and the highlight of summer was spending a week in Cape Cod as a family.
Ellen was the best sister. She was quiet, conscientious and well behaved; she followed the rules. In fact, shortly after getting her driver’s license, she had a “run-in” with the police, who knows…too fast (doubtful), too slow (who knows?), regardless, she didn’t pull over for several minutes until she felt she was in a safe area to stop. Was that officer angry.
It was during her senior year at Fayetteville Manlius High School that Ellen met her husband, Michael Frith, at a Catholic Youth Organization party just before Valentine's Day. Before meeting Mike, Ellen decided to go a little wild and started dating “Freddy the biker”, the family was shocked. It was with great relief when Mike came to the door for that first date. The couple dated for the rest of their senior year and graduated in 1969. Ellen and Michael continued to date for about two more years, during which time Ellen attended Plattsburg State College and Powelson Business Institute, where she gained a certificate in accounting secretarial studies. She also earned an Associate's degree from Jamestown Community College.
The happy couple married at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Manlius, New York, on July 10, 1971. After celebrating with family and friends, the newlyweds took a week and drove through the Adirondack Mountains and out to the Atlantic coast in New Hampshire. Ellen and Michael made their first home in an apartment in Randolf, NY, before moving to Jamestown, NY, until 1986 when they moved to Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Ellen worked in various jobs in secretarial and office management roles and was an incredible typist. While working as an office manager for a gas and exploration company, Ellen received two tickets to anywhere in the world she wanted to go. As one of the company's principals owned a condo on Grand Cayman that could be used gratis, Mike and Ellen enjoyed two vacations in the islands.
Blessed to become parents in 1977, when their son Sean was born, Ellen and Michael were delighted when their daughter Meghan completed the family in 1980. As a selfless and devoted Mother, she created a loving and supportive home for her family. She was loving, kind, strong, and incredibly patient; the best Mom a child could hope for. She was also known for canning and the homemade cherry pies she made for Mike on his birthday.
Focusing on her family, Ellen gave little importance to material things. She valued every moment spent with her children and grandchildren. One of the greatest gifts Ellen gave her family was her 52-year marriage. With her patience, love, unwavering loyalty, and generous care at the center of her marriage, she and Michael were a great example of what marriage truly means. Though delayed by a couple of years, Ellen and Michael recently enjoyed celebrating their 50th anniversary by taking a Lewis and Clark cruise where they enjoyed adventure together and met new friends.
Though the world feels less certain in the absence of Ellen's loving smile and steadfast love, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in carrying her beautiful legacy of love and loyalty forward. Whether sharing a warm smile, creating a loving home, making a home-cooked meal, cheering on her loved one's endeavors, or serving others, Ellen led with her heart in all things with her primary focus being on the well-being of her family. In each moment we choose to live wholeheartedly, we celebrate how Ellen made the world better. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspire others as she inspired us.
Ellen Elizabeth Frith, 72, of Plainwell, Michigan, passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 6, 2024. Along with her parents, Ellen is preceded in death by her sister, Margie Reif.
Ellen is survived by her husband of 52 years, Michael Frith; her son, Sean (Cyndi) Frith; her daughter, Meghan Frith-Matta; and her grandchildren, Rachel, Alexis, Liam, Cash, and Jett. Also surviving are her brothers, Tom, Edward (Marilyn), and Steve Reif, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A Memorial Funeral Mass will take place at 10:00 AM on Monday, January 15, 2024, at Saint Augustine Cathedral Catholic Church (542 W. Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007).
Contributions in Ellen's memory may be directed to the Saint Augustine Cathedral.