Dr. Ella Graham Massie Marks died peacefully at her home on October 14, 2020, in Guilford, CT. Ella lived a magnificent life of selfless service and love. She was born in Lynchburg, VA, in 1929 and grew up on Lone Jack Farm with her four brothers and loving parents. At 17, she studied dance at Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires of Massachusetts and met her lifelong teacher and mentor Margaret Craske (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Craske). In 1947, at the age of 18, Ella moved by herself to New York City to study dance. Those were halcyon years studying under Miss Craske at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School and learning about Avatar Meher Baba. She lived a carefree life in the early fifties, taking class, auditioning, dancing professionally, ushering for the great Broadway shows of the time, and eating five-cent hot dogs from the Automat. Her mother also made sure she took classes at Columbia’s School of General Studies. In 1952, Ella met Meher Baba at Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was a turning point in her life. She became a lifelong, questioning devotee who aspired to live Baba’s message of love, Truth, and selfless service. After meeting Baba, Ella met Peter Marks, a student at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, and they married in 1953. Ella had the good fortune of meeting Meher Baba again in 1956, as did Peter. After their marriage, Peter and Ella began work in parishes in Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side, living with the members of their churches and having an open rectory where all were welcome. As part of her work, Ella had a dance school where students paid ten cents a class. And she choreographed a production of “Peter and the Wolfe” with costumes supplied by Miss Craske and the Met. In the ensuing years, Ella had four children in a span of six years, from 1956 through 1962. Peter and Ella moved to Mahopac, NY, in 1960 where Peter became the Episcopal priest of the Church of the Holy Communion. During the sixties, both Peter and Ella worked for social justice by marching for civil rights and against the Vietnam war. And in 1968, at the age of 39 and with four children, Ella went back to school to Sarah Lawrence College to get her undergraduate degree. After the family moved to the Boston area in 1970, Ella continued her studies and worked in a group home for disabled children and for a short period at a plastics factory to help keep the family going. She received her Master’s in Science and Social Work from Simmons College in 1976 and began working with abused children in the Lowell area. Peter and Ella began a new chapter in 1980 when they moved to Golden Valley, MN. Ella worked as a social worker at the transplant unit of the University of Minnesota Hospital, starting a support group for transplant patients and their families. She then worked as head of Social Work at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, providing support and love for children with life threatening diseases and their families. While doing all of this work, Ella made lifelong friends and supported and educated her four children. She also began work on her doctorate. Ella received her doctorate in psychology at the age of 68 in 1997 from the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology. While pursuing her doctorate and working full time, Ella also supported Peter through many illnesses in his later years. Peter died in 1998.
Ella moved to Guilford, CT, to be close to her grandsons, Owen Marks and James Marks, as they grew up. She was a wonderful “Grandma Ella” to Owen and James, playing with them and taking interest in everything they did. She also built a full-time psychology practice from scratch, practicing in Madison. Ella retired at age 85 after 13 years in private practice. She had great respect and empathy for every client she worked with. Throughout her life, Ella quietly aspired to let her life itself be Meher Baba’s message of Love and Truth. She is survived by her daughter Viola Marks-Kelly (husband Matthew Kelly), her daughter Alexandra Marks (husband Martin Sheridan), her son Dr. Peter Marks (wife Jenifer McShane), her daughter Susan Marks (wife Linda Purdy), her grandsons Owen Marks and James Marks, her brother Dr. William Massie, her sister-in-law Bobbie Massie, and many nieces and nephews.
Because of COVID, a small, private service will be held at Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Gifts of remembrance may be sent to: Meher Spiritual Center, 10200 North Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC 29572 or The Connecticut Hospice, Inc. 100 Double Beach Road, Branford, CT 06405. To sign the online guestbook please visit hawleylincolnmemorial.com.
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