Pastors' Memoirs

Chauncey W. Ellison, 1901-2003

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  Our father was a most remarkable man. Born April 2, 1901, in Reading Township near Watkins Glen, New York, of Father William Sproul Ellison and Mother Anna Laura Raymond Ellison. William was a descendent from Scottish ancestors who moved to Northern Ireland for one generation, and arrived in upstate New York in the early 1800s. His mother, a Raymond, was a descendent of Count Raymond of Tulouse France of several hundred years ago.

  Dad was one of six children, three boys and three girls, all of whom were to grow to adulthood. Five were eventually married and produced eight offspring, four girls and four boys. Their early adult years, the teens and twenties of the 20th century, were most difficult years for families with modest incomes, but their parents — with the help of a relative or two — provided professional training for the three girls and two boys. Dad eventually earned a B.A. and a B.D. from Asbury College and Seminary and a M.A. from Boston Theological Seminary. Dad felt God’s call to the ministry, and after high school spent time at Cazenovia Seminary studying Greek, Latin, Speech, and other similar subjects. He said if you didn’t have the money for Harvard, Cazenovia was the place to go. Though they were not married, mother was also studying at Cazenovia and both of them graduated at the end of the two-year program. They married in 1922 and went to conference on their honeymoon — he as a Local Preacher. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1925 and Elder in 1927. After Cazenovia, they attended Taylor University and returned to New York State to pastor churches in the Ithaca area and attend Cornell University. In 1926 they left for Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, where we lived on the campus. Dad was studying for his B.A. and B.D. He would go to classes in the morning and she would be home with me. In the afternoon Mother would go to the conservatory of music on the campus and study for her degree in Music, and Dad would watch me. My brother Eugene was born there. Dad’s Asbury years included a summer of circuit preaching on Sundays in the Kentucky mountains riding either on horseback or in a "jolt wagon" to travel to four churches, one each Sunday. In 1930, we four left for the Boston area and Dad’s study at Boston University. He had a student pastorate in the village of East Bridgewater, about 18 miles from Plymouth.

  Following Dad’s graduation with a M.A. from Boston University, we returned to central New York State for ministries in Virgil, Groton, Wellsburg, and Epworth in Elmira. Margaret Jean, our sister, was born while in Groton. In 1944 while at Epworth Church, Dad joined the Chaplain’s Corps of the U.S. Navy.

  In 1992 we were able to take Dad back to Virgil, New York, south of Syracuse, for the United Methodist church congregation’s 100th anniversary and the Village of Virgil’s 200th anniversary. While living in Virgil, a village of 1,100 feet elevation surrounded by hills, Dad would make winter time calls to church members while driving a 1930 Chevrolet sedan with chains on the rear wheels. Much of the time he followed a Walter Snowfighter snow plow as it plowed through 8-10 foot snow drifts. After his retirement we were able to take Dad to former pastorate church celebrations in Virginia at Bridgewater, Calvary at Salem, and Cashville Charge at Eastern Shore and E. Bridgewater Mass.

  Another side of Dad’s life was his love of sports, both as a participant and spectator, particularly baseball. He would listen to the Elmira Pioneers baseball team by radio even when the away games were relayed by teletype to the announcer. Throughout his high school and college years, he lettered in basketball, baseball, and football. During his Navy Chaplain’s career he coached the ‘Amphion’- AR-13 ship’s softball team while anchored at Norfolk.

  Upon retiring in 1971 from the active ministry, he and Mother settled in northern Virginia and became active in Friendship Church in Falls Church where he taught the adult Bible class for many years until two weeks before he died. He preached and participated in many church activities. The congregation elected him Pastor Emeritus. He took up golf and drove with Mother to the Burke Lake golf course in Northern Virginia. While Mother studied nature from the car, Dad would play a round of golf. One hole was 160 yds. On two separate occasions, he made the same hole in one stroke. I saw one of these.

  Dad enjoyed working with wood. He built two dollhouses complete with windows and shingles, one for a granddaughter and one for a great-granddaughter, assembled a grandfather’s clock case, and helped us build bookshelves and finish our present home’s basement. Before Mother’s stroke, they would play music privately, and at some of his services. She on the organ or piano and he on a trumpet, cornet, violin, or in a beautiful tenor voice. I sang in our choirs and watched the back of his head while he preached Sunday after Sunday. He developed an intense interest in all aspects of the American Civil War and wrote his own version of the Gettysburg battles. He was able to travel to Gettysburg several times, and also participated in seminars.

  He was a very patient man and never complained as he took care of Mother for 35 years after her stroke which left her left side paralyzed and with little speech capability. He continued to take Mother to annual conferences. Her last years were in the Northern Virginia Hermitage where she died in July of 1992. Ann and I attend his Asbury College reunion dinners at annual conference in his honor. He will be missed. But we know that because of our faith and his faith and love for his Lord, he is in heaven today.

— Donald W. Ellison, son



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