Cover photo for Ellen Morford Fisher's Obituary
Ellen Morford Fisher Profile Photo
1934 Ellen 2023

Ellen Morford Fisher

July 15, 1934 — January 16, 2023

It is with great sadness that our family announces that Ellen Morford Fisher of Bainbridge Island passed away on January 16, 2023, at the age of 88. She followed the death of her husband of 64 years by 7 months. Although Ellen’s health had declined, she remained the sweet, kind person she was. She always made clear that she was was glad to see her children, and she laughed as we read her the antics of characters such as Frog and Toad or at yet another funny story of cultural adjustment from Funny in Farsi. Caregivers and visitors alike remarked on how kind and considerate she always was, even when a kind “thank you” or “nice to see you” was the most she could say. In the last days of her life, her children Carrie, Cam, and Sarah spent memorable time with her telling stories, laughing at Snoopy’s capers in the Peanuts books she and Dad had enjoyed, and realizing just how grim those Grimm’s fairy tales are in their original form. Her family joined a Zoom call to recall their fond memories of Ellen. There were many common themes: books, read alouds, nature, advocacy, patty melts, pulling ivy, family gatherings at the Battle Point home, searching for Easter Eggs, holiday sweaters, celebrating the 4th of July, love, patience, interest, quiet encouragement, warmth, joy, intelligence, being way ahead of her time (from cooking vegetarian, to always having a glass of water nearby, to recycling, to hiking the Enchantments, and more to follow).


Ellen was born in Seattle on July 15, 1934 to Kenneth James and Gertrude Burwell Smith Morford. Her dearly beloved sister, and companion for life, Sarah Catherine, was born 6 years later. Summers were spent at a cabin on Pleasant Beach; in fact, every time “Pleasant Beach” appears in a record Mom kept of her life, it is followed by many exclamation marks so it was obviously a special place. Her children know this as well, as we too remember the excitement of seeing our cousins the Goffs, and treasure our memories of roasting marshmallows, spinning around on the teeter totter, fishing for flounder, playing shuffle board and “beckon, beckon”, setting off fireworks, going to the 4 th of July parade in Winslow, building forts and trails in the woods, digging for clams, and rowing and swimming in Rich Passage.


One of Ellen’s “way ahead of her time” events occurred in high school. Most remarkably, at age 16, (1950-51) and just 5 years after WWII ended, Ellen was an exchange student at Oberschule fur Madchen in Braunschweig, Germany. Newspaper accounts from the day describe the “pert brown-eyed Garfield High school girl” who was “active in social service and on the library committee at Garfield besides being roll president and a member of the Honor Society”. She was chosen from a group of 64 candidates. The newspaper reported: “‘It’s thrilling and exciting,’ Ellen said, brown eyes sparkling. ‘But it isn’t just an adventure. I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity to gain more understanding of the ways of other people. The sort of understanding necessary to eliminate hate and fear in the world.’” The account added: “‘Ellen’s going certainly will create a gap in the family’ said her father, operator of a real-estate and insurance firm, ‘but it’s a grand thing for her.’” This is so much the person her family would remember on our recent Zoom call: someone who worked to make the world a more understanding place. Moreover, her father’s words were how she parented us: we know she loved us, and we also knew she expected us to prepare for, and find our own, “grand opportunities.”


Ellen went on to Smith College, of which she was very proud, graduating with a history degree in 1956. In an editorial she wrote while at college, she praised Smith as part of a group of New England private liberal arts colleges that developed “independent thinking young men and women who will take part in the life of the nation.” She continued to work to make the world a better place, teaching 4 different social studies classes from 7 th to 11 th grade at Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma. Keeping with the volunteer tradition from high school, she joined the Junior League in 1957. Some of her many volunteer stints later in life included leadership roles in institutions such as the Pony Club, the League of Women Voters, Delta Kappa Gamma (women leaders in education), Amnesty International, Plymouth Church and Eagle Harbor Congregational Church. This commitment to justice and the environment and her lifetime of advocacy really made an impression on her kids and grandkids. It is also a common theme when people tell us what they remember of Ellen.


While at Annie Wright, her headmistress introduced her to Don and they were married in 1958. They first made a home in Seattle and then moved to Mercer Island where their three children were born: Sarah in 1960, Cam in 1962, and Carrie (born on the floating bridge to be exact) in 1964. For many summers they continued the beloved Pleasant Beach traditions, creating many more happy memories with Ellen’s sister Sarah and her husband Russ and their children Kenneth and Ellen. In 1975, they moved year-round to Bainbridge Island as they bought and remodeled a house on Fletcher Bay. In 2014 they moved to the Harborside Condominiums in Winslow, and then in 2021 to Liberty Shores in Poulsbo.


In 1976 Ellen went back to school at SPU, earning a teaching degree. When she described her first 3rd -4th split class at Suquamish Elementary (where she spent most of her teaching career), she added a smiley face and double underlined the word “teacher.” That passion was obvious to all who knew her: she threw her heart and soul into teaching, always creating and innovating and agonizing about how best to help those kids she loved so much. We used to laugh about her “shrine” to teaching—a little brown table and a corner of a sofa where she would spread her papers and books and work hours and hours to come up with new ideas and grade her student papers. She very much enjoyed the “kindred spirit” she found in her teaching partner LeAnn Mong, with whom she shared a teaching job at the end of her career. In 2000 she “retired, with sense of loss of a job I loved.”  (underlines are hers).


Ellen thoroughly enjoyed her grandchildren and adult children. Always ready to play “12 Dancing Princesses,” facilitate a creative art project, read (read read read) a book, attend a sporting event/ ballet recital /theatrical performance/chicken exhibition, adventure on an intergenerational hostel trip, or answer a question (or another or another) she was there. While she was always available to her grown kids if we needed her advice, or wanted to go for a walk, or wondered whom we should vote for for county coroner, she never judged us or dominated our lives. She also loved her outdoors. From her weekly Parks and Rec walking group, to hikes and overnight backpacking with dear friends and relatives, to her daily walk on the beach or around the neighborhood, she just wanted to get out on a walk (and pull some of that awful invasive ivy).


Ellen also had a lot of fun travel adventures—usually with Don and sometimes with a friend. She visited places as far and wide as Australia and New Zealand, England, Alaska, Mississippi, the Canadian Rockies, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Spain, and the Mediterranean. From her first trip to Germany to these many adventures, Ellen’s interest in the world around her was a constant in her life. So too was her intellectual curiosity and keen intellect. And of course, books—books were always there.


Ellen will be fondly remembered as a principled, intelligent, warm, and loving person to all who knew her. A memorial service will be held Saturday, February 18th at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church at 1 pm. All are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bainbridge Island Parks and Trail Foundation, as well as Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.


Arrangements are entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ellen Morford Fisher, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Pacific time)

Eagle Harbor Congregational Church

105 Winslow Way West, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

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