Ellen's Story

I think over again / My small adventures / My fears / Those small ones that seemed so big / For all the vital things / I had to get and to reach / And yet there is only one great thing / To live and see the great day that dawns / And the light that fills the world. - Old Inuit Song

Ellen Marie (Holmes) Cates of Whiting, Maine, died at her home on September 5, 2014 with her family beside her. She was 84.

Born in Whiting/Halls Mills to Helen Mae (Dennison) Holmes and Ralph Earl Holmes in 1930, she and lived in Halls Mills, Starboard, and East Machias for some years until she and her family moved to Alaska in 1968 where she lived until she returned to Whiting with her late husband, Ed.

Before retiring, Ellen was a medical and legal secretary; subsequently she was assistant Town Clerk at Whiting for many years.

Ellen was a literacy tutor for some years in the Machias area and volunteered at Quoddy Lighthouse for several seasons. She often helped at the Whiting polls.

She had an intense appreciation for the natural world and instilled the same in her children. She was an avid reader and read aloud to her children until her children were able to read books themselves. She was a bird whisperer, standing in winter gear under a tree, her hat and mittens loaded with birdseed. She was a water colorist and made stained glass pieces that are works of art. A skilled crossword puzzler, Ellen was the go-to person if you needed to spell any word. She was a wonderful cook. However good you think your potato salad or Italian sandwiches are hers were better.

She enjoyed travel to tropical climates, visiting Hawaii several times and sojourning alone for six months in Fiji and Rarotonga, and to New Zealand where she completed the Milford Track.

Ellen was an avid cross-country skier. Once, during a x-country ski race, she broke her tailbone, got up, and finished the race. She made many long distance bicycle treks with fundraising groups across Maine when she was well into in her 50s and 60s. As she grew older, she became a dedicated walker and up until a few months before her death, she and her dog, Sammi, walked two or three miles every day.

Ellen was fiercely stubborn and independent. Whether we wanted it or not, she passed on these traits to her children.

Ellen was predeceased by her husband, Edwin J. Cates, Jr of Whiting; her husband Sherman Burgess of Anchorage, Alaska; two sons, Danny and Steven Sprague; and her brother, Ralph Holmes, Jr. of South Carolina.

She is survived by her daughters Elizabeth Sprague of East Machias; Kathleen Garcelon and her husband David of Starboard; a granddaughter Leia Scotton and her husband Andrew of Gorham; step-sons Glen and Dale Cates and their families of Buxton and Standish; her brother Bruce Holmes and his wife Pat, of Scarborough; and nieces Janet C. Holmes of Newburyport, MA and Carol J. Holmes of Palenville, NY.

A remembrance gathering is planned for November 9th from 1:00-4:00 at her home in Whiting. (FMI: 207-263-8771). Her family will inter her ashes at the Congregational Church in East Machias beside her sons Danny and Steven.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Ark Animal Shelter, POB 276, Cherryfield, ME 04622.
Published in Bangor Daily News
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