- After dancing through life, touching hearts, and bringing smiles wherever her tune took her, Kerri Sue Leonard-Ellison valiantly made her way to her Heavenly home on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. She strived to make a daily difference in the lives of her family, friends, and all she met through any means at her disposal. She celebrated life every day on this Earth, and so we celebrate her life and memory every day hereafter.
Kerri was born on October 5, 1959, in Bangor, Maine, to Ralph and Anita Leonard. One of five exceptionally close siblings, Kerri's father nicknamed her Kerbear for her zest for life and determination to seize every opportunity. She won every challenge she accepted, and she accepted all of them, whether by choice or by circumstance. A talented artist, a dedicated swim instructor and lifeguard at the YMCA, a faithful Sunday School Teacher, and an excellent student, Kerri loved being with childhood friends skiing, snowmobiling, and boating in her beloved state of Maine. After she graduated from Old Town High School in 1977, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development from the University of Maine in 1981. There she became a Chi Omega Sorority Sister, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Little Sister Sweetheart, and sought adventure in completing an exchange year at the University of British Columbia. While at UMaine, she developed a deep love for running and an even deeper love for her future husband, a strikingly handsome SAE brother and football player named Tom. Continually compelled to serve, Kerri went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northeastern University in 1986 and delightedly worked as Neo-natal Intensive Care Nurse in Maine and Massachusetts for many years thereafter.
With their shared love for people, family, and fun, Kerri and Tom married on August 9, 1986, in Bangor, Maine. Over the course of their thirty-year marriage, they were blessed with four beautiful children. In 1992, Tom's job brought them to Easton, Pennsylvania, where Kerri unhesitatingly placed her nursing career on hold to selflessly raise their children. Taxiing her kids over Eastern PA for athletics and academics, she never missed an opportunity to cheer them on or lift them up. Her passion for children, health, and education is reflected not only in the way she raised her own children but also in her extensive volunteering with the Weller Health Education Center; as a Parent-Teacher Association President at the elementary, middle, and high school levels; in the founding of many extracurricular programs like the Forks Running and Jump Rope Clubs; and as a frequent classroom volunteer. Later this passion manifested into a seven-year tenure as an elected member of the Easton Area School Board, where she tirelessly fought to represent the concerns of her constituents in a determined effort to improve the quality of education within the District. In that capacity, she served as a sounding board and advocate for anyone and everyone. Her love, concern, and resulting action knew no bounds.
Through Kerri and Tom's example of selflessness, patriotism, and passion for living, all four of their children were inspired to pursue higher education and service to the Nation at the United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA). Kerri created a tightknit family in every community she was a part of, and West Point was no exception. Over the course of a decade, she welcomed hundreds of Cadets, Soldiers, and parents into her family, encouraging them through word, embrace, and legendary football tailgates. Kerri, known as Cherri to her USMA family, labored Tuesday to early Saturday morning every autumn, ensuring her signature whoopie pies, pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies, and white chicken chili, among many other hearty treats, were prepared to feed the masses on Army football weekends. The Ellison tailgates roared into the late night, Kerri leading the party with her brilliant smile, genuine conversation, and unparalleled dance moves. She always sent her scores of Cadets back to their barracks with full stomachs and happy hearts, ready to conquer another challenging week at USMA. Her unbounding love and inspirational discourse continued to sustain her children in their post-graduation military service that included overseas deployments and long periods of field training.
For the last thirteen years Kerri fought a courageous battle against a relentless foe quietly and with incredible grace. The brain tumor that eventually took her could not dampen her spirit or zest for life. Kerri never complained and never let the pain that she endured every day or the 70 surgeries she underwent slow her down. Rather, she dedicated herself even more to her family, friends, and community. And through it all, she remained the most beautifully captivating juxtaposition of a warrior soul and an angel heart, bringing her own sunshine wherever she went and inspiring countless souls along the way.
Kerri was predeceased by her mother, Anita S. Leonard, and her brother Ralph "Rick" Leonard, Jr. She is survived by her loving husband and devoted teammate, Tom, of Easton, PA; her adoring children, Kaitlin and her husband, Thomas "Mac" Brinker, of Colorado Springs, CO, Patrick of Savannah, GA, Meaghan of Watertown, NY, and Meredith of West Point, NY; her father, Ralph E. Leonard; her sisters Lynda of Stillwater, ME, and Laurena Reichel and husband, Fred, of Hampden, ME; her brother, Kent, and wife, Lisa, of Holden, ME; and many beloved aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. The family gratefully acknowledges the compassionate care provided for Kerri, particularly by the staff on Zayed 12W and Drs. Anthony Tufaro, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, Justin Sacks, and Kaisorn Chaichana of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.
A celebration of life service, officiated by Pastor Tracy A. Reeves, will be held at the Old Town United Methodist Church located at 726 Stillwater Ave., Old Town, ME, on Friday, December 30, 2016, at 2 p.m. After the service, the family invites relatives and friends for conversation and refreshments at the Black Bear Inn located at 4 Godfrey Drive, Orono, ME. An additional celebration of life service will be held in Easton, PA, during the week of January 2. Details for this service will be published in the local paper. In lieu of flowers, the family requests you consider making a contribution to a cause dear to Kerri's heart: The Force Network Fund, www.forcenetwork.com, a charity serving those who protect us. Notes of condolence may be left at www.birminghamfuneralhome.com
Published on  December 29, 2016