South Jersey Girl Through and Through – Full Length
By Gary Engelstad, Gifts Officer
In a life that has spanned over nine decades, Ellie D’Angelis has been consistent about one aspect of her life: “I’m a South Jersey Girl,” she proudly proclaims.
From growing up in Monroeville and Bridgeton to meeting her husband in Mullica Hill and having homes in Stratford and East Greenwich, the southern part of the Garden State has been Ellie’s comfort zone for her entire life. For the past seven years, she has been a resident of United Methodist Communities at Pitman – a move Ellie says she “didn’t think twice about.”
When Ellie was a younger girl, her first job was at the local drug store soda fountain in Bridgeton. The drugstore had a great location in that the telephone company was just two doors away, and every time the chief operator came in, she would ask Ellie, “Aren’t you 16 yet?”. So, when Ellie turned 16, she said goodbye to the drugstore and began a career that would last for the next 42 years.
Ellie started as an operator, but she quickly moved up to working in the business office. Her business travels took her all over New Jersey. “Sometimes I was in Camden, sometimes in suburban towns like Collingswood, and sometimes in Newark,” Ellie shares. “It was a wonderful job; I’ve been very blessed by God.”
Ellie met her late husband, Bernie, at a non-alcoholic dance hall in Mullica Hill. “I didn’t want to go out with him at first because he looked ten years younger than me! Finally, his brother came to visit and said, ‘Bernie just got out of the service!’. Of course, that meant Bernie was older than he looked, and from then on, I dated him.”
Ellie and Bernie enjoyed traveling. One of their adventures took them on an incredibly memorable trip put together by a tour group that liked to surprise its customers. “We were going on a 13-day trip, and we were told to bring our passport,” Ellie reminisces. “We ended up seeing the Canadian Rockies. We had a fantastic time”.
Throughout her vibrant life, Ellie has looked out for others. “In my high school yearbook, it said ‘chatty’ underneath my picture,” she laughs. “I always had a lot of friends.” Why does she care so much about others? “I have no idea,” Ellie says, “Just a God-given talent.”
In addition to supporting United Methodist Communities’ mission of abundant life for seniors as a UMC Foundation as a donor, Ellie has also helped others through her work with the Telephone Pioneers. “We’re a group of retired telephone company friends who volunteer for all sorts of things,” she explains. A few years ago, Ellie had a close friend serving in Iraq. Ellie’s friend told her that he wished he could make friends with the Iraqi children. The Telephone Pioneers sprang into action, and Ellie boxed up and sent 100 handmade cloth teddy bears they’d made to her friend in Iraq. “He told me the kids were so tickled with these bears that, finally, their parents trusted the soldiers, shared tea with them, and made friends.”
Ellie loves her life today at UMC at Pitman. She describes the staff as “Super terrific; they are so good. I’ve made friends with many of them and there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for anybody.” A United Methodist, she is especially fond of the community’s Director of Mission & Pastoral Care, Pastor Kim. “Pastor Kim is not only a terrific pastor, but she’s also a good teacher and a true friend to all of us. She is so much a part of my life.”
Ellie is a voracious reader who devours mystery novels in her spare time. “I can take a thick PD James book in two days!” she exclaims. “If I had my life to live over, I would get an education and get into the intelligence branch of the service. I’m a good snoop! I always know the answers before I get to the end of the mystery book!”