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Eleanor Ketcham Stewart passed away peacefully at her home on August 4, 2020, just a few days shy of her 97th birthday. During the brief illness that preceded her death, Ellie spent many hours contentedly sharing stories, ice cream and love with her family and friends. Ellie was preceded in death by her husband and best friend, Bill Stewart, and by her brother, Newton Ketcham. She is survived by four daughters (Susan Stewart (Gregg Bryant), Cindy Klum (Jeff Klum), Sarah LeRoy (Joe Fallows) and Nancy Broadwell (Dave Anderson)), six grandchildren (Matthew Bryant, Andy Bryant, Adrienne Klum, Scott Klum, Rob Broadwell and Tim LeRoy (Lizzy Latenzer)) and two great grandchildren (Tommy and Eleanor “Nora” LeRoy).

Ellie was born in Oak Park, Illinois to Newton and Vivian Ketcham. A story she told often was of family vacations at a Wisconsin cottage, which they shared with a skunk family, each year with a new batch of babies. She loved those baby skunks and said of them, “I never remembered any stink.” Ellie remained fond of skunks throughout her life. Maybe that explains her devotion to another black-and-white creature: her long-time live-in companion, a quirky black-furred, white-pawed cat named LottieB. Knowing that LottieB would always be a part of her family added immeasurably to the peacefulness at the end of Ellie’s life.

Ellie received her undergraduate degree at University of Michigan and her graduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Western Michigan University. She worked as a speech pathologist with children in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Wilmington, North Carolina. After Bill retired from his general pediatrics and neonatology practices, he and Ellie started a consulting practice in Wilmington for children with developmental and learning challenges whose families needed help identifying and obtaining essential services for their kids. Ellie loved helping these children and their parents in the behavioral aspects of developmental problems. She and Bill provided on-site consultation to public schools in Wilmington, meeting with teachers, support staff and parents. This was, Ellie often said, her favorite professional role.

Ellie and Bill traveled widely. Among the trips that were most meaningful to them was a visit to China shortly after its borders opened to international travelers, which they made as part of a physician group invited to share practice ideas with Chinese physicians and nurses. Ellie was a little worried about finding camel-tendon soup on the honored-visitors’ menu in China, but she loved meeting with the nurses, who appreciated her input on managing behaviors of a hospital unit full of kids who weren’t very sick and were therefore a bit challenging for the nurses! Upper Michigan’s Tahquamenon Falls, Ireland and New Zealand were other favorite adventures.

Ellie was known by her friends and acquaintances as an intelligent, thoughtful and independent woman whose kindness was always at the forefront. She worshipped at Faith Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, where she taught adult Sunday School well into her 90’s and helped make quilts which adorned the sanctuary before being donated to those in need. There was always a Faith Lutheran prayer-shawl in progress in her knitting basket and a Lutheran hymnal on her piano. Ellie treasured her friends at Beacon Hill and loved getting together with them in painting classes, the fitness studio, religious and constitutional law studies and many other activities. She read voraciously and cherished her Knapp Valley Book Club, which she belonged to for many years. Ellie and Bill recalled with great fondness their friends from Wilmington, 4th of July parades at the Seaside Club, sailing the Intercostal Waterway and year-round golf. Ellie remembered the sailing as a bit of a catch-22.

Ellie’s smile warmed us all until the day she died. Her message to her family was consistent. “I love you so much, I’ll miss you so much, now go have fun with your lives.” We know she would have said the same things to everyone who knew and loved her. All is well.

Cremation has taken place, consistent with Ellie’s wishes. Her family is planning memorial celebrations incorporating essential public health guidelines. Ellie would have been honored by a donation in her name made to Kids’ Food Basket or a charity of your choice.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Eleanor’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Cremation arrangements are entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006.


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