Eleanor M. “Ellie” Munson
MADISON, Wis – Eleanor M. “Ellie” Munson was liberated from a long, agonizing siege of dementia that took her life on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
She was born in Madison, Wis., the daughter of William and Mary Babler, now deceased. She was united in marriage to Earl H. Munson on Sept. 18, 1965.
Ellie graduated from the University of Wisconsin majoring in social work, but it was the five years prior to graduation that truly defined her character. Although no member of her family and no known relative ever attended college, Ellie was determined to attend the University of Wisconsin. Her family did not approve of her decision, but Ellie was adamant. Living at home in Madison the first semester proved to be difficult with the tensions at home created by her desire to go to school and readily available jobs for which she was fully qualified. Ellie left home for the second semester and moved to a small attic room on campus. With $50 from her father and some savings from her part-time work, Ellie struck out on her own. For the next five years she worked and saved to put herself through college.
For the first year, she had only one blouse that she washed every day in order to wear it the next day. At one point she had to drop out of school for one semester to earn money to pay for a tonsillectomy. She paid the medical bill and promptly returned to school. While a student, her employers quickly recognized her integrity, her grit and work ethic by providing her with work hours consistent with her class schedule. She worked for Victor Music Company and the husband/wife owners of the business thought so much of her that they asked her to stay in their home with their two boys when the Victors were out of town on lengthy business trips.
After graduation, Ellie was employed by Dane County Department of Social Services where she quickly gravitated to Juvenile Court working with troubled children and troubled families. Judge Ervin Bruner, a long-time juvenile judge said this about Ellie in 1991:
“In my 26 years as a judge I had contact with many professionals giving very high quality services to their clients and agencies. But none exceeded Ellie Munson in their understanding of human behavior, ability to interpret their clients’ conduct and feelings to others and use of sound judgment in recommending courses of action to meet the clients’ needs. Her skill in working with and getting the confidence of teenagers and parents was exceptional. For years girls that she worked with have kept in contact with her as a friend and confidante.”
With the birth of her daughter, Ellie became a stay-at-home mom and became involved in all of the activities of a mom: PTO: President, Newsletter Editor, Fundraiser; Volunteer West High School Library; All-City Curriculum Advisory Committee; Principal Selection Committee; Volunteer at Oakwood Lutheran Home; Girl Scout Leader; Sunday School Teacher; and the list goes on.
In third grade her daughter began to exhibit difficulty with readings and mathematics. Some of Heidi’s teachers suggested that Heidi be held back a grade. That angered Ellie; she knew that Heidi was not “challenged.” She knew her daughter was bright and able. With her typical determination, Ellie researched Heidi’s problems and sought professional advice. As a result of Ellie’s efforts she concluded that Heidi was dyslexic. At that time the school could offer little help, so Ellie, with her usual grit, researched everything she could find on dyslexia. Mother and daughter worked long tedious hours for Heidi to learn how to overcome dyslexia in reading and numbers. For both Heidi and Ellie that effort took years through high school, not months. But Ellie succeeded: Heidi is a Phi Beta Kappa and has a Master’s Degree in Mathematics.
When her daughter went on to college, Ellie went to work as an Assistant to Pastor Duane Hanson, then Director of Bethel Horizons. Similar to her respect for Judge Bruner, Ellie developed a deep admiration for Pastor Hanson and his work at Bethel Horizons. Ellie thoroughly enjoyed working with two people for whom she had such high respect.
When it came time to stop working full-time, she took various part-time jobs, was honored for her work as a volunteer Ronald McDonald House, worked as a village poll worker, joined family ski trips, sailed Lake Mendota and traveled locally and abroad.
Over the last six years, Ellie’s dementia slowly began to tear apart her physical ability, her emotions and her control of her limbs. At first Ellie refused to accept her disease but as it became obvious, she never complained. It was clear, however, that she hated the fact that she could not care for herself, could not walk, could barely talk and that the disease had robbed her of her fierce independence.
Ellie is survived her husband, Earl; and her daughter, Heidi. She was preceded in death by her parents; and all four siblings.
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