At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Edison Christian Assisted Living
1000 Edison Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
401 Hall St. SW, Suite 263
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a quick wit, determined spirit, and unwavering desire to help others, Theresa Ellens lived a life rich in family and friends. Fondly known as "Tress" or "Te" to those who knew her best, Theresa never hesitated to give what she could to make life easier and more fun. She was kind, adventurous, compassionate, and a loving companion to many. Tress had a gift for seeing the best in people and generously reflecting their goodness back to them. A treasured sister, aunt, friend, and nurse, Tress will long be remembered and so very missed.
The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans, and falling consumer prices gave rise to a higher standard of living for most. The world quickly changed with the inventions of wash machines, vacuum cleaners, the band-aid, and the first automobile with a combustion engine. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person's success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. Locally, this vibrant decade grew even brighter for Harry and Dena (Meyering) Ellens as they welcomed their daughter Tressa to their family on Sunday, February 27, 1927, in McBain, Michigan.
Joining her older brother Stuart who was a year and a half older, Tress became a big sister four years later when their brother Robert joined the family. Two years after that, their sister Celia completed the family. Harry made a living as a small farmer during those early years while Dena worked by supporting the family at home. However, things changed when Dena's health began to decline. She suffered from severe asthma, brought on initially by pneumonia. During their time in McBain, it was thought that Dena would die. Because of this, in 1942, Harry sold most of his worldly goods at an auction so that they could move to Denver for treatment at Bethesda Hospital. In addition to all their household goods, they sold a black and white and two Guernsey cows, two 10-gallon cream cans, a Davenport, a piano and stool, and a Maytag washer with two laundry tubs.
The family stayed in Denver for the better part of two years. Tress dropped out of school to care for her younger siblings. She also cleaned houses to help support the family, and once she turned 16, she also worked at Montgomery Wards to bring in more income. During these same years, in response to Stuart serving in the Coast Guard and her dad's need to support the military, Tress prepared home-cooked meals for any soldier who came to church that day.
Two years later, the family returned to Grand Rapids. When the time came for some of the family to move to Phoenix for Dena's health, Tress remained in Grand Rapids, where she worked various jobs. In 1949, shortly after her mother's death, Tress finished one-year training to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). For many years, she worked at Butterworth Hospital. At the encouragement of her hospital supervisor, Tress graduated from high school in 1974 at 47. In 1978 she was named employee of the month at Butterworth. She served on the board of LPN in Lansing, Michigan, and fought to reduce the number of hours female nurses were forced to work. For many years, she also worked in private nursing care.
Sharing close bonds with her siblings and their spouses throughout her life, Tress was especially close to her sister Sally's family, becoming a second mother to Sally's three children. Delighted to be an aunt, she went out of her way to create special memories with her nieces and nephews. Whether eating meals on her fine China, finding a new $2 bill in their birthday card, or camping at Holland State Park as an extended family, there was always fun to be had when Aunt Tress was around. She spent hours making candy for her loved ones, filling many a whipped topping container with her special treats. With her signature quick wit, whenever the kids asked where her baby was, she promptly replied, "In the attic." Though many heard about the babies in the attic over the years, no one ever saw them, and it became a legendary joke for the family.
Tress loved traveling. She especially enjoyed a trip to Alaska with a favorite aunt and a trip to the Holy Land. Once, when she took a memorable trip with her niece/nephew to visit family, her young passenger noticed all the inside door handles except the driver's door were removed. They presumed Tress did this to ensure they wouldn't open them and fall out, and only later confirmed with Aunt Sally that Dean or Sandy actually inspired the removal.
A constant, loving presence Aunt Te never missed a special moment or an opportunity to help those she loved. Caring for others was her calling; she proved a steadfast source of comfort and confidence. She always made sure her family had plenty of food and tenderly cared for them when they were ill. Welcome Home for the Blind's Strawberry Festival was one of her passions. Her family will never forget when she "borrowed" lots of syringes, which they filled with candy and nuts and sold at the event. There was no surprise when she made many friends during her final years at Edison Christian Living facilities.
A woman who loved her family dearly and devoted herself to the care of others, Tress was a powerful role model of how to live a wholehearted life. She welcomed each day as a gift and every person as a friend. She gave freely, laughed often, and was grateful for her many blessings. An inspiration to all, Tress will long continue to inspire those she held so dearly to celebrate every moment and always lead with their heart.
Theresa Ellens, age 96, joined her heavenly Father on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, as her loving sister, Celia (Sally), sat by her side. Besides Sally, Theresa (Te) is survived by Sally's children, Jane and Dave Moutett, Julie and Paul Ritchie, David and Jody Driesens, and their families as well as several other nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Harry and Dena Ellens, and her brothers and sisters-in-law, Stuart and Frances Ellens, Bob and Bern Ellens, and Sally's husband Roger Driesens. We want to thank the staff at Edison Christian Assisted Living, especially Jason, for their constant care and encouragement. Also, Emmanuel Hospice was such a gift these last few weeks.
A memorial service for Tress will be held at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, on Monday, May 22, at 11 a.m. Visiting will begin at 10 a.m., and a light lunch will follow the service.