Ellis' Final Days Made Colorful –CagleAugust 2012
In May of 2009, I interviewed Dan Ellis, along with Frank Tantillo and Ray Cody, for the June cover story on C&S Press of Orlando, FL. Eight months after the article appeared, Ellis received life-altering news: He was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's Disease.
ALS victims generally live about three years (Stephen Hawking is a notable exception, having survived nearly 50 years so far with a form of ALS). Ellis succumbed to the disease on June 18, four days after his 52nd birthday, leaving behind a wife and three children. He had roughly 28 months to say goodbye and, according to his obituary, Ellis made the most of his time left.
As the disease robbed Ellis of the ability to do the things he loved, such as traveling, boating and tennis, he developed an affinity for abstract painting. According to the Orlando Sentinel, his mother was an acrylic portrait artist and his two sisters were painters. But they encouraged Ellis to find his own canvas magic, expressed in abstracts of hot and cold. As a printer, color was the one thing he knew inside and out.
"He never thought he was a good artist," Ellis' widow, Maria, told the newspaper. "He knew color, but he never in his life imagined putting it on a canvas."
As his condition worsened, Ellis would rely on his daughter, Gina, to carry out his artistic vision. He would text her ideas and, toward the end, would use eye blinking to communicate. Even when his body wouldn't respond, Ellis' heart helped convey his sentiments, courtesy of his daughter.
"She became his arms for the vision he had," Maria noted of Gina.
No one was allowed to wear black at Dan Ellis' memorial service. Musical selections included Coldplay, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. Don Potter sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and as a tip of the hat to the man who enjoyed life to the fullest, there was an empty bottle of Bacardi rum, a diet Coke and a lime. His ashes were spread in the Bahamas.
It seems, in addition to leaving footprints in the sand, Dan Ellis sprinkled in some color. His disease, like his troubles, has melted like lemon drops.