Ellen Joanna McMullin MacKenzie, 92, passed away on Feb. 16, 2017, in Coeur d’Alene. She was born on August 24, 1924, in the McMullin family home in Hillsboro, Mo., to Morris Leonard McMullin and Sara Eliza (Elizabeth) Baker McMullin, a native of Iowa. Ellen’s grandfather, Richard Watson McMullin, was the publisher of the Jefferson Democrat newspaper, the newspaper for Jefferson County, Mo. In her birth announcement in this paper, her father declared his first daughter “a precious jewel.”
Ellen and her older brother, Richard, moved with their parents to St. Petersburg, Fla., where Ellen’s sister, Mary Lois, was born on Ellen’s second birthday. Later the family returned to Hillsboro, where another daughter, Patricia Jean, was born, totaling three redheaded daughters.
When Ellen was just six years old, she lost her father to pneumonia after the family moved to Anita, Iowa. This was the beginning of the Great Depression, and despite having a home economics degree from Iowa State University, Elizabeth struggled to care for her young family, necessitating sending one or more of her children to live with family members or friends at various times.
Ellen lived with several different families as a child, sometimes being required to work for the families doing housework or childcare. She especially enjoyed the time spent on her Uncle Wilber’s farm and the Bently’s dairy farm.
After graduation from high school in Osceola, Iowa, Ellen moved to St. Louis, Mo., and later attended Shurtleff College in Illinois for a semester. Ellen then joined her sister, Mary, in St. Petersburg where they worked as movie theater cashiers and enjoyed dancing with soldiers at the USO, though they were forbidden to date them.
In 1944, seeking more gainful employment, Ellen and Mary went to work in the administration office of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oakridge, Tenn., one of the facilities collaborating on the “Manhattan Project” which developed the atomic bomb.
While in Tennessee, Ellen briefly attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Wanting to go west, Ellen and a friend hitchhiked to Oregon from Tennessee. Ellen had many fond memories of this trip; of the people who gave them rides and the sites they saw along the way, including Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Mount Rainier.
Ellen settled in the Bay area, living in San Francisco and Sausalito, where she worked various jobs including as a clerk at Southern Pacific and as a nightclub photographer for local hotels. She briefly attended both UC Berkeley and UC Davis.
On March 12, 1949, she married Harry Miller in Reno, Nev., where she had met him at a party. Harry worked for PG&E and they lived in various locations in California, moving with his job. Ellen was widowed when Harry was killed in a work accident in 1952.
Ellen then enrolled in the horticulture program at Oregon State College in Corvallis, where she met and married fellow OSC student, Donald MacKenzie, on Dec. 23, 1954. Following her marriage, Ellen focused on what she had always wanted to do; be a wife and mother. Don’s career in forestry took them to various small northeast Oregon towns including LaGrande where Don worked for Boise Cascade.
In 1965, they purchased 30 acres north of Elgin and built a home. In 1973, Don’s career took them to Grangeville, and the family purchased 80 acres on Crane Hill, east of Kooskia and built a house, which they called home for the better part of the next 34 years. Ellen and Don raised three daughters; Donellen Jo (Donni), Alaine Holly (Lanni) and Heather Lea.
Ellen was a very talented and creative person who had many hobbies. She loved being outdoors, enjoying gardening, birdwatching and working in her greenhouses at both her Elgin and Kooskia homes. She raised peafowl, sewed, macraméd, crocheted, knitted, and dabbled in drawing and watercolors. She loved classical music, was an avid photographer, as well as an excellent cook, who enjoyed trying new recipes. In her later years, Ellen learned to use the internet to research genealogy and did extensive research on family history, communicating with like-minded people around the country. Ellen was a soft touch for animals and rescued many abandoned cats and dogs, sometimes to her husband Don’s dismay.
After Don’s death in October 2008, Ellen moved to St. Maries, Idaho, near her oldest daughter, Donellen. In 2013, a broken leg and advancing dementia ended her ability to live alone and she then lived in various assisted living facilities in the Hayden area before moving in with her daughter, Alaine, in Coeur d’Alene in October 2016.
Ellen was preceded in death by first husband, Harry Miller; husband of 53 years, Donald E. MacKenzie; her mother and father; brother, Richard McMullin; and sisters, Patricia Brandt and Mary McMullin.
She is survived by daughters Donellen Moen (Jim) of St. Maries, Alaine MacKenzie, Heather Barber (Mark) of Rathdrum and grandchildren Erica Moen Reynolds (Josh) of Harrison, Heath Moen (Katey) of Post Falls, Brandon Barber and Brodia Barber of Rathdrum and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Ellen is scheduled for 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct.14, at the St. Maries’ Presbyterian Church.