JERDA M. (BELL) ELLIS
May 19, 1920 - June 24, 2012
SOUTH BEND - Jerda Mae Bell Ellis, 92, departed this earthly life on June 24, 2012 in the residence of her youngest daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada after battling Alzheimer's. Jerda was born May 19, 1920 in Hope, Arkansas to Frank Bell and Dena Montgomery Bell. The family moved from the farming area in Arkansas to the industrial Midwest when employment opportunities were beginning to flourish.
After moving to South Bend, the family lived on "the Lake" where the Bells: Jerda and her brothers, John (JC), Alvin (Beans) and Larry, became very close friends with the Townsend, Phillips, Bowles, Johnson and Sanders families.
She was educated in the South Bend school system attending Benjamin Harrison Elementary and graduating from Central High School.
While in high school, the Bell family moved from "the Lake" to the West Side. Shortly before graduation, times were still economically hard coming out of the 'great depression' so Jerda, her girlfriends and brothers were employed as domestics, waitresses and bartenders. Jerda secured a job as a nanny and held that position until after graduation.
Jerda and her friends were very social and loved to dance. The favorite place to gather on weekends was at 'Uncle Bills' on Birdsell Street. This is where Jerda met and, with the approval of her brothers, began dating Bill Ellis from Jeffersonville, IN who was in the Civilian Conservation Corps based in Fort Wayne.
Jerda and friends formed lasting relationships with members of the CCC from introductions from South Bend CCC members. While Bill was completing his tenure with the CCC, he and Jerda decided to get married in South Bend and move to Jeffersonville, IN. They lived in Jeffersonville until after the birth of their first daughter.
When Bill heard Studebakers and Bendix were hiring, they moved back to South Bend where they raised their four children on Colfax Ave. They were married for 61 years when Bill passed.
Jerda was employed for many years in the dry cleaning industry at Zikers, Walters and S & S Dry Cleaners. After leaving the dry cleaning industry, she became a tutor in the reading program at Harrison Elementary School. While visiting with the family of an injured Army buddy of her brother Larry, Jerda was asked if she had ever considered working with Visiting Nurses. The family told Jerda that her compassion, concern and care was just what that organization needed and encouraged her to 'check out the possibilities'. Jerda was enjoying her semi-retirement at the time, but after more visits and words of encouragement from the family, she was trained and hired by Visiting Nurses.
Jerda loved cooking, sewing and music and exemplified those talents while an active member of Grace AME Zion Church for over 70 years. There she served as President of the Hattie Pierce Woman's Home & Overseas Missionary Society, was a member of the Young Women's Service Guild, Senior Choir and was a Youth Advisor. Socially, Jerda was a long-time member of the Knights of Pythias Women's Bowling League and the Friendly 12 Club.
In the mid 50s, when her two older daughters were early teens, Jerda helped them and other young ladies in the community organize a type of sorority known as The Pixies, which stressed education, etiquette, family and social skills and fun. Many of those girls, now grandmothers and great-grandmothers themselves, kept in contact with Jerda over the decades and helped her celebrate her 90th birthday in Las Vegas.
Jerda Mae Bell Ellis was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Dena Bell; her husband, William Frank Ellis, Sr.; her son, William Frank Ellis, Jr.; brothers, John and his wife Nola Lanton Bell, Alvin Bell and Lawrence Bell. Jerda Mae is survived by daughters: Judith Ann and husband William Henry Williams of Carson, CA, Marcella E. Ellis of South Bend, IN and Gayle M. Ellis of Las Vegas, NV; grandchildren: Reginald E. and wife Yolinda Williams of Bellflower, CA, Kenneth "Rusty" Ellis of Los Angeles, CA and Michelle D. and husband Anthtwan Caver of Riverdale, GA; and great-grandchildren: Reginald Williams II and Niana J. Williams of Bellflower, CA, Kenneth Ellis Jr. and Jade A. Ellis of Corona, CA, and Khari Caver and Erik Caver of Riverdale, GA. She also leaves a host of loved ones in southern Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona and California.
Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, July 3rd in the Clark-O'Neal Funeral Home, 2702 Lincoln Way West, South Bend. Visitation will begin at 11:00 am with services at 12 noon. Burial will follow at Highland Cemetery. To leave the family an online condolence and sign the guest book, visit www.clarkoneal.com. Arrangements entrusted to Clark-O'Neal Funeral Home, Inc.
Published by South Bend Tribune on Jul. 1, 2012.