Marilyn Sue Ozzella Ellison passed into eternity on February 13, 2021. She was surrounded by her loving family, two of her precious caregivers and the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before her.
Sue was born in Santa Monica, California to Joseph and Marie Ozzella on November 5, 1930. She was a younger sister to Joe Jr. who sadly died at the age of 9, and older sister to Sandra. She grew up with her cousin, Dixie, who was more like a sister as well. Sue was proud of her Italian heritage and being the daughter of a hardworking immigrant who built a large orchid business in Hawthorne, CA, which supported his family and others. She learned a strong work ethic, generosity, selflessness, frugality and how to be hospitable as she worked alongside her mother and “Daddy” from a young age and during the Great Depression years. Some of her fondest memories and best stories were from years spent working in the green houses, delivering floral arrangements to famous movie stars and embracing families and friends who were less fortunate during those difficult years. She loved to cook and bake for the servicemen who set up a temporary base on the empty lot across the street from the orchid nursery. Her dad’s generosity impacted her as he insisted upon supplying the base with water from his nursery hoses.
After high school her dad insisted that she receive a college education. She attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where she roomed with her cousin Dixie and graduated with a degree in Sociology. She loved her four years there where she grew in her Bible knowledge, had many dear friends, and gained a love for working with children. In the meantime, her Westmont friend, Corky, introduced Sue to her cousin Ray Ellison. Our dad was smitten and went home to tell his parents he had met the woman he was going to marry. After four years of dating Ray, she realized she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him if he came home safely from Korea. They married on December 15, 1951 during her senior year at Westmont. After graduation they lived in several states while building a thriving thrift store business. Dad often said he never could have done it without her support and flexibility. They landed in Pasadena, CA in 1954 with their firstborn son. These were some of their richest years where they met lifelong friends at Bethany church, had three more children and lived close to their parents and siblings; allowing them to create a very close knit family.
Sue’s highest priority was walking in and living out her faith in Jesus Christ. This enabled her to be a Godly, wise, supportive and present wife and mother. In 1966 our family moved to Ventura where Mom was busy raising kids, using her gift of hospitality, serving in church and teaching preschool for 8 years. She had a passion for nurturing children and creating a fun environment for learning. She used her collection of children’s books, posters and teaching units to bless Sunday school rooms, preschools and Project Understanding’s tutoring centers.
All this knowledge and curriculum came in handy when she became a grandmother to many, years later. Raising four kids and Dad’s business occupied most of Mom and Dad’s time in the 60’s and 70’s but they did have the opportunity and were very thankful to travel to multiple countries with their longtime best friends; memories never forgotten. After their children were raised they moved to a large ranch property in west Ventura. Mom often spoke of their time on “The Ranch” as their most treasured years when they shared good health and plenty of time with their growing family. Another special place where they left lasting memories for their kids and grandkids is Grand Lake, Colorado, where they spent many of their summer months, a few memorable Christmases and their 50th wedding anniversary. Their ranch later became a home for the women of Teen Challenge, where hundreds of lives have been transformed. The women have named it “Miracle Mountain”, an appropriate name as Mom and Dad always desired meaningful purpose for the property.
Looking back on Mom’s life we recognize that her role as a helpmate and caregiver was her calling in life. She and her sister cared lovingly for their widowed mother over many decades. As ten grandchildren came along, Mom and Dad made it a priority to always be helpful and present in their lives. The holidays, birthday parties, activities, sleepovers and school performances brought them great joy. They and the grandchildren recognized their ability to be involved as a true privilege and gift. In later years Mom cared for Dad selflessly as he battled dementia; never complaining, always patient and humorous.
Did we mention Mom was ALWAYS patient and humorous? She was witty and fun, WISE, a good listener, counselor to many, a gift giver, note writer, prayer warrior, never judgmental and a faithful, “Mama”, sister, Grammie, great Grammie and beautiful friend. She loved tending her orchids and roses with her green thumb, watching Gunsmoke, reading (especially history), learning, watching her Sunday morning Church services, Classical music, hymns and the Word of God. She loved hosting and attending baby showers and celebrating new life. Mom had a sweet tooth!! Especially in her last months of life she loved her See’s chocolates, ice cream, pies, pastries donuts and a good burger.
Mom was humbly generous. She not only gave of her time, but of her resources. She loved clipping newspaper articles about organizations in need and frequently responded anonymously. Her heart was generous toward war veterans, Operation gratitude, Teen Challenge, Chayah Children’s Home in Uganda, local churches, Ventura County Pregnancy Center, Casa de Vida and preserving Ventura’s historical sites. The impact of Dad and Mom’s generosity will not be fully known this side of Eternity.
After the loss of her husband and soulmate of 59 years Mom often questioned her purpose on Earth. She had suffered several mild strokes and arthritic pain throughout her body was often unbearable. Now it was she who needed the caregiving. She would jokingly tell us she was ready for her “wings”, but Instead of complaining, Mom made the best of her time, adopting Philippians 4:6 and I Thessalonians 5:17&18 as her “life verses”. “Be anxious for nothing.” “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We all believe the Lord knew best. This was going to be a difficult loss, so He gave her loved ones ten extra years to glean from her rich prayer life and wise perspective. Her beloved sister Sandra, niece and nephew were able to visit from Colorado multiple times in her last years. She was able to attend many family holiday celebrations and important events, including grandchildren’s weddings and the births of great grandchildren. Many of Sue’s family members and friends were pleased to take turns celebrating her 90th birthday with her during her “Birthday Week” this past November. In her last months and even days her grandchildren and other loved ones were able to call or visit to express their love and gratitude. As her “home going” drew near, her earthly home was filled with family, caregivers, love, laughter, tears, hymns and prayers, with no regrets and nothing left unsaid. Mom was peaceful and humorous to the end and finished the race well.
As a family we would like to acknowledge and thank Mom’s special caregivers who enriched her life in immeasurable ways. Cherry Rose, Armina, Daisy, Chato and Yolanda, you were truly gifts from God. Thank you for using your unique gifts of compassion, medical knowledge, humor and understanding to take such loving care of our mom over the past ten years. She loved you all dearly. We’d also like to thank Assisted Hospice and Nurse Jen for their kindness and expertise which enabled us to have Mom in her home to the end.
Sue was predeceased by her brother, father, mother, great grandson and husband Ray, the love of her life. She is survived by her sons Mark Ellison (Erin), Matt Ellison (Kerry Lynn), daughters Denise Sponseller (Jeff), and Debbie Hill (Jeff), Sister Sandra Westover, niece Toni and nephew Erik. She leaves her ten grandchildren: Kai (Joeline) Ellison, Kellen (Heather) Ellison, Adam (Janice) Ellison, Nicole (Branden) Wenger, Brittany (Daniel) Ingram, Evan (Kristen) Sponseller, Joey Sponseller, Taylor (Matt) Broggie, Tarah (Kyle) Wolf and Katie Hill. Last but not least are the jewels in Sue’s crown, (16 great grandchildren) Elton, Micah, Peyton, Ellison, Aniston, Simon, Brixton, Darla, Sadie, June, Ledger, Owen, Koda, Hadley, Cole and Rylie.
Due to COVID regulations Sue’s service will be postponed until further notice when we can celebrate her life without restrictions. Be assured that it WILL be a celebration of a life well lived and the promise of Heaven and eternal life together.
Arrangements are under the BOYKO & REARDON TELEGRAPH ROAD MORTUARY & CREMATION, Ventura.