Eleanor Helm Ketcham died Nov. 6 after a battle with listeria. She had just turned 93.

Eleanor, known as Ellie, devoted her life to family and community. Everyone who met her immediately felt valued and loved. If the world was full of people like her, problems would shrink dramatically in scale and challenge.

She lived her life in four wonderful communities. Her childhood was spent in Montclair, N.J. as the daughter of Mary and Harold Helm and the sister of John Helm. She attended the Kimberly School and then Wellesley College. She later served as class president and noted as an octogenarian that this was made possible by the thinning of the competition.

She started raising her family in Verona, N.J. after marrying John Ketcham, who predeceased her in 2018. In 1967, she moved to the Cleveland area and then, in 1971, to her second significant community: Toledo, Ohio, in 1971. There she guided her three children, Jim, Cliff, and Mary, through Ottawa Hills High School, where she served as a parent volunteer. She re-entered the work force, first at the Medical College of Ohio and then as director of the Voluntary Action Center, a United Way agency.

The empty-nester stage of her life was spent in her third major community, Elon, N.C. She and John built a retirement community that involved senior houses, more than 50 senior apartments and a 72-bed assisted care living facility. She counted the development of Blakey Hall and the Hamlet as true Alamance County community assets of which she was very proud.

In Elon, Ellie had her most meaningful professional experience as the district administrator for the Guardian Ad Litem program, an organization that represented the interests of abused and neglected children in juvenile court. During her 10 years of service there, she increased the number of volunteers from six to 47 and greatly improved the lives of some of the neediest children in Alamance County.

While extremely proud of her work with Guardian Ad Litem, she was perhaps more proud of her work establishing a PFLAG (parents, family and friends of lesbian and gays) chapter in Alamance County. She never stopped her involvement with PFLAG.

The Elon Community Church was both a source of inspiration and solace to Ellie. She held many positions there helping to advance its mission.

After retiring, she earned a master’s degree in sociology from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, exactly 50 years after she earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Wellesley.

Ellie’s fourth significant community was Martha’s Vineyard, where she spent time almost every year of her life. The Vineyard was such a special place for her and one where she spent more and more time as she advanced in age. Some of her favorite places were her homes on Quitsa Lane and Pancake Hollow, the beaches on both sides of Squibnocket Point, the Chilmark Community Center, the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and Poole’s and Larsen’s seafood markets in Menemsha.

She was an active tennis player and skier, always the last to leave the social hour following church services, a determined participant in family card games, a passionate Democrat who fought hard for progressive causes, a proud daughter of Kentuckians who always relished her time with her extended Kentucky family.

She was an amazing grandmother to her five grandchildren, Joe and Ellie Sterner and Kristy, Katie and Mike Ketcham; a beloved mother in law to Dana, James and David; and a dog lover who so appreciated her time with Wiggles, Honey, Shadow, Charlie and Mickey, among others.

A funeral service was held Nov. 16 at Elon Community Church.

Interment is planned this summer on Martha’s Vineyard, where she will rest peacefully alongside John, her husband of 63 years.

Donations can be made to the Island Housing Trust or the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.