Jeff Ellis, Jr. died on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.
He was born George Jefferson Ellis, Jr. on Jan. 6, 1926, to Pearl Miks Ellis and George Jefferson Ellis, Sr. in Dardanelle, Ark.
After graduation from Dardanelle High School, he traveled to Alaska to work on the Alcan Highway. Because a flood prevented a graduation ceremony, Jeff loved returning for his class reunions.
At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was sent to Chicago to be educated on the Morse Code. He served as a radio operator on the L.S.M. 329, protecting U.S. forces in the South Pacific until the end of WWII.
Upon returning home, Jeff followed his dream and enrolled at Vanderbilt University. With the unexpected death of his father, he chose to be near to family and attended Arkansas Tech University. In 1951, he was awarded a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Arkansas. From this, he became a lifelong Razorback fan. More importantly, on a class field trip to the Fayetteville Water Works Plant, he met the love of his life, Frances Smith of Searcy. They married on Veteran’s Day of 1951.
After attending R.O.T.C. camp, Jeff and Frances moved to Niagara Falls, NY and Pensacola, Fla. where he began his engineering career with E. I. DuPont Co. and then as City Engineer for the city of Pensacola. Jeff and Frances returned to Arkansas and settled in Newport where they raised their family and made many wonderful friends and memories. Jeff continued his career with the U.S.D.A. through the Soil Conservation Services. He retired in 1998, after 42 years of service.
He was a member of the First United Methodist Church at which he served on multiple boards and committees. He enjoyed the men’s groups over the years and most recently the Chadwell Sunday School class. Jeff served as a lay minister in the Methodist Church traveling to small communities to lead Sunday services.
Jeff loved being active in the Newport and Jackson County communities. Reflecting his pride in being a WWII Veteran, he remained active in the American Legion, Neil Griffin Post #47. He would serve as the Arkansas American Legion Baseball Commissioner and local organizer of the Arkansas Boys State. He was named a Melvin Jones Fellow for his exceptional service to the Lion’s Club. Many light bulbs, brooms, and auctions were part of the Ellis Family. Jeff served on the Newport Municipal Water Company Board and Newport City Beautiful Commission.
Perhaps, his greatest pleasure was his 30-year tenure as the Public Address Announcer for the Newport Greyhound Football Program. Each week he not only learned the names of players but also those of the cheerleaders – both for home and away teams. This also led to his writing game articles for the Newport Independent. He supported so many young people in this role.
Being an avid outdoorsman, preparations began early for duck and deer seasons. Frances and he shared a friendly competition when fishing for trout on the White River. The arrival of Ellis gave him a new fishing buddy. His greatest excitement came from turkey hunting. Ed gave him the chance to tell all the stories once again.
Later years found Jeff and Frances traveling from Alaska to the Holy Lands. Jeff enrolled in classes from computers to woodworking. He was known for his carving of competition-worthy duck decoys and Razorback pins. Anna was a willing participant in joint art projects while Mary Katherine often wears the pins. His workshop was his playground. And, he will be remembered for the stories he told – which didn’t necessarily always end the same. Jeff often said that his priorities were God, Country, and Family. This led to a life well-lived.
Jeff is survived by Frances, his wife of 69 years; daughters Lisa LaGrone (Andy) and Jeffrey McKinley (Lester); grandchildren, Ellis LaGrone, Anna LaGrone, Mary Katherine McKinley, and Ed McKinley; and nieces and nephews. Lt. Gen. (retd) George Allen Crocker (Vonda) shared a special relationship with him. He was predeceased by sisters, Madelyne, Adele, and Emma, and their spouses.
Jeff’s family is appreciative of the wonderful care provided by the doctors (notably Dr. Amidi), nurses, and support staff at Baptist Medical Center, North Little Rock, and Hospice Home Care.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church, 217 Laurel, Newport, AR. 72112 or to a charity of choice.
Funeral services are at 11:00 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, at Jackson’s Newport Funeral Home Chapel.
Those honored to serve as pallbearers will be Jamie McLarty, Andy LaGrone, Lester McKinley, John Pennington, Ellis LaGrone, Ed McKinley, Lt. Gen. (retd) George Allen Crocker, and Clay Curtner. Honorary pallbearers will be the Chadwell Sunday School Class.