Carol Kay (DeHaai) Ellis was born to Ira and Sarah DeHaai on January 25th, 1938, in Rapid City, South Dakota. “DeHaai” is a good solid Dutch name, (as was Brink, Carol’s mom’s maiden name), and Carol was always proud of that pure Dutch heritage. She said that it explained, among other things, her stubbornness. Some version or another of that trait always served her well.
Carol was the middle sister, between her older sister Norma and the younger Mary, and was raised around Rapid City and Spearfish. It was at Spearfish High that her cheerleading caught the eye of a young jock named Dick Ellis. It would be two years before she would consent to date him, and three more years after that before they married, on August 23rd, 1959. Sometimes “stubbornness” looks a lot like reasoned caution.
After high school, Carol earned a teaching certificate from Black Hills State College and then taught in Billings and Missoula while Dick was in school. They spent the summer of 1960 “manning” a Forest Service lookout tower above Whitefish Lake, and the summers of ‘63 and ‘64 in Yellowstone Park where Dick was doing research for his Master’s. There were many river floats and camping and hunting trips; and two major adventures to Mexico, one to the tip of the Baja Peninsula another around the mainland, in a VW bus. Sometimes, when a woman who might on the surface appear to be a bit cautious and reserved goes adventuring, stubbornness is indistinguishable from bravery.
Scott was born in 1961, and Kim in 1965. In 1969, after Dick’s early career with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks took them to Miles City, Glasgow, and Bozeman, they settled in Helena for eight years and then moved back to Bozeman, where the family survived the kids’ teenage years and where Carol went to work as the secretary for ERA Landmark Realty and later for the Bozeman Multiple Listing service. After another brief stint in Miles City, they settled in Billings in 1993, eventually building a house next door to Kim and their grandkids, upon whom Carol simply doted. Sometimes, stubbornness is the workaday thing that gets you gracefully through your kids’ youth, your own career and location changes, the core of everyday life, to knitting in the sunshine on the back porch of the retirement house with the grandkids next door.
Carol had intermittent back problems throughout her life, and in the last couple of decades they worsened dramatically. When those issues were compounded by COPD, Carol’s mobility was limited and she was in significant pain. She endured both with stoicism and good humor that were inspirational to everyone who knew her. Stubborn heroism, there.
Carol was preceded in death by her sisters and her parents. She is survived by Dick, her husband of almost 59 years, and by Kim and John McRae and their children, Allie, Kirby, and Janie; and Scott and Ellie Ellis and Carol’s step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A celebration of Carol’s life will be held later this spring. Memorial donations in Carol’s name can be made to the wonderful Riverstone Hospice House in Billings.
We loved Carol dearly, and we never doubted for an instant that she loved us. Because, sometimes, stubbornness is just plain love.