Ellen Jo Greendale, 64
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Ellen Jo Greendale, 64, passed away on Wednesday evening, October 3, 2018, at her home surrounded by her family and friends.
Ellen was born Christmas eve, 1953, to Victor and Evelyn Kitzul of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. This good family instilled solid Midwest values from day one. The youngest of three daughters, she also quickly became a peace maker – another great value. The family had a cottage on Lake Leelanau (near Traverse City, Mich.), where Ellen vacationed in the shadow of Sleeping Bear Dunes her whole life, surrounded by her sisters, their sons and daughter, and now many grandchildren.
Ellen graduated from the University of Michigan (where she played flute in the marching band) in 1975, became a CPA, and joined one of the Big Eight (at the time). Realizing the slavery of that career track, she chose in 1978 to join a software-services company in Ann Arbor, where I happened to be employed! The greatest day of my life was when she walked into the office and I saw her. I was star struck, bedazzled, and flustered. We flirted for a while and soon became partners.
Soon thereafter, I got promoted to a job in Philadelphia and left Ann Arbor. A few months later she appeared on my apartment doorstep and told me we were to be married, or she would leave. In a typical male way, I said “Come on in, let’s talk about it.” Well, she did, and she never left. We married in 1979 and started our journey together.
I was in sales and then start-ups, so my career meant moving often. Over the next 22 years, we resided to NY, LA, back to Ann Arbor, and San Francisco. In 1991, we came to Boston, where I became a co-founder of a software services company. We decided to stay for the rest of our lives – we loved it. We would return to Ellen’s cottage to join her family in northern Michigan every Fourth of July and my New Zealand family in the spring, to the retreat we built together on the far side of the world overlooking the Bay of Islands.
Let me be clear, Ellen was dedicated to supporting my career. That’s what she was. It’s never about her; it was always about whoever is in front of her. That’s why she is so beloved by our extended family of relatives and friends she welcomed wherever we lived. Like Robin, whom Ellen met and befriended in the early ‘90s in SF and is a dear friend to this day. And Susan, in Michigan, 10 years earlier.
In 1996, we bought a tired Berkshire “cottage" that had been converted to an inn in Stockbridge. For the next four years, this historic structure was completely restored, the grounds and the gardens, and it became our home in 2000. I was doing a weekly commute to Boston as I built another company, and she put her roots down locally. She became a member of the Berkshire Botanical Garden and the Lenox Garden Club. She became a very active member of the Board of both and served as the President of the Garden Club. For the first time, being in one place for a while, she was able to make a wide circle of friendships. I know she touched you all but know too that she was enormously thankful for your friendship.
Unfortunately, a year ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cancer - a complete shock. She was given a year to live. Well, it has been a year, and here I am writing this obituary. Three weeks ago it became clear that there was no medical solution. Ellen faced the inevitable with grace, as she had always lived her life. She was tougher than anyone I’ve ever seen, all with a smile, warmth, and humor as she gritted her teeth for as long as she could.
Ellen was a very special person. She was a giver, selfless, humble but strong, smart, funny, confident, compassionate and brave. Ellen is an angel. We have walked together for 40 years – we will continue forever. She will always be a part of everyone who was blessed to know her. Ellen was very very special.
The support we have had over the past year has been phenomenal – all a tribute to her. Here is a note sent to her last week – it is powerful and captures her character so well: “Dear Ellen. Thank you for everything you did for both the BBG and LGC. Your leadership was such a model of grace, humor and focus. Thank you for being a role model for all of us who were fortunate enough to work with and join you on your projects to improve and develop both organizations.”
“Only the good die young.”
Ellen is survived by her mother, now 99 years old; her two sisters, Lynn and Pam; three nephews and a niece; now eight grand-nephews and nieces; and multiple cousins and their families. This does not count a large contingent on my side, all of whom are Down Under. She has a large and loving extended family.
Funeral notice: A celebration of Ellen’s life will be held next spring when her flowers bloom again in our meadow.
In lieu of any other memorial, Ellen would want you to make a donation to the Berkshire Botanical Garden which she loved so much. Please go here to donate or send c/o Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home, 426 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230.
-Written by Christopher H. Greendale
Obituary Provided By: Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home