Spend a little time with Ellen Jane LaMarche of Neenah, and it doesn’t take long to understand this lady is in a hurry to get things done, yet still takes the time to appreciate the basics of life. “On a beautiful, sunshiny day like today, what more can you ask for,” she said as we sat down to chat. It was difficult even finding a date to get together as Ellen is always busy, whether scrapbooking, volunteering, meeting with friends, or travelling across the country to scenic locales. She laughs as she admits she doesn’t have time to not be busy, “I have a lot of things to get done yet.”
The proud 1960 graduate of Coleman High School located in a quintessential Wisconsin small town 45 minutes north of Green Bay, Ellen is the only child of Donald and Margaret Chase. She recalls fondly her time growing up on the farm located just outside of the Coleman village limits, when her small family worked as a team to get all of the work done. “I had the best parents in the whole world,” Ellen says, “I’ve been blessed and lucky to have been born and raised on the farm. Life was full of fun and hard work as a kid and not cruel. We didn’t have to have everything- you learned to be happy with what you have.”
She learned from her parents’ ability to successfully farm despite a small number of cattle, as they made wise decisions with money and refused to go into debt, helping their farm survive. She fondly recalls her time spent hanging out with her best friends in school or at Section 8 Baptist Church activities and summer Bible camp. She was also a proud member of the Future Homemakers of America at Coleman High School.
Inspired by her own home economics teacher, Ellen attended the University of Wisconsin- Stout, obtaining a Home Economics and Education degree and later completing a Master’s Degrees in Health from UW-Stevens Point once the enrollment of high school Home Ec classes declined. Ms. LaMarche taught for her first 8 years at Seymour High School, where the very first day of her job as a new hire was serving as a superintendent at the Outagamie County Fair, assisting the judges for the Clothing and later also the knitting and crocheting projects, written in as a part of her actual teaching contract in Seymour. This summer’s fair would have been her 57th year working as a superintendent at the Outagamie Fair if it wouldn’t have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
After spending eight wonderful years teaching at Seymour, Ellen moved to Neenah and began her 27 years of teaching Home Ec and Health at Neenah's Junior High and High School until her retirement in 1999. While Ellen may have retired, she certainly has not slowed down a bit. She has traveled all over the country, including to Branson, the Colorado Rockies, Maine in fall, and Virginia Beach taking in the Atlantic Ocean. She enjoys scrapbooking weekends to record her trips and many activities, including volunteering as a 4-H resource leader for knitting, assisting with several committees at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and at ThedaClark Hospital in Neenah.
In 2019, Ellen worked on a different project called “Discover Through Play” to give back something educational in nature to her hometown community of Coleman, Wisconsin. This $75,000 endeavor largely funded by Ellen in honor of her parents Margaret and Donald Chase, who passed away in 2003, involved renovation and installation of new playground equipment in the village park across from the Piggly Wiggly in Coleman. Ellen was able to honor her parents while cutting the ribbon at the dedication ceremony last fall.
Life has not been easy for Ellen. She shares that she was diagnosed with lung cancer six years ago that also spread to her spine for which she underwent radiation therapy and extensive chemotherapy that have had some side effects that have impacted her health even today. But her cancer has been stable ever since, which Ellen attributes to her positive attitude, faith in the Lord, the help of her friends, and excellent treatment by Dr. Klinkhammer. She maintains a positive attitude by having a personal relationship with God, and recognizing that when we think we have it bad, all we have to do is think of someone else who has struggled far more than our current difficulties in life.
One of my favorite things about Ellen is her infamous Christmas card, letter, and packet of fun and encouraging quotes. She loves the 7 Rules to Life, her favorite being, “Don’t worry about what other people think of you. It’s none of your business!” That and if everyone followed the Golden Rule, the world would be such a better place, filled with understanding and caring for one another. “It’s lovely to do wonderful things, by leaving extra tips, helping others, and doing God’s work,” Ellen reflects. “Don’t be lazy; maintain a happy medium between work and play. If only we all could get along and be peaceful.”
As Ellen pondered further advice for these trying times, she shared that each of us should remember, “It is easy to forget that you are not alone. ‘Behold, I am with you always, says the Lord.’ We are in this together. ‘United we stand. Divided we fall.’" (Quote from Abraham Lincoln).
Photo credits: Patooties Photography