Obituary: Ellen Sabo Morris, 1951-2021 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Ellen Sabo Morris, 1951-2021

Lifelong educator embraced adventure and her greatest passion: skydiving

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Ellen Morris - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Ellen Morris

Ellen Sabo Morris of Grand Isle, Vt., a lifelong teacher, educator and mentor, passed away on the evening of November 24, 2021. On November 29, 1951, she arrived as a gift of joy for her parents, Bernard Sabo and Jane (Nowatenski) Sabo, of Wallingford, Conn. She never knew the joy of siblings (my perspective) but cherished the knowledge that she would always be her daddy’s favorite little girl (her perspective).

A graduate of Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, she came to Vermont and the University of Vermont in 1969. At UVM, she earned a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in secondary education and a certificate of advanced studies in public school administration. UVM is also where she began her love affair with the game of hockey. Ellen was a lifelong UVM men’s hockey fan and a season ticket holder. It was at one of those games that she met her eventual husband, Barclay Morris, the loud fan in the row in front of her. First we were acquaintances, then friends. Finally, something clicked, and we married in 1979. We sat in those same seats on October 29 and cheered UVM’s win over Boston College.

Ellen spent 21 years in public education, both as a teacher and as an administrator, and eventually found her way back to UVM in the division of Continuing Education (since then realigned as Continuing and Distance Education). She organized UVM’s first programs in distance learning. They brought AP math and AP English to many small high schools across the state. At one time or another, she visited every high school in Vermont. Her job evolved over time, and she ended up working with a variety of colleges and departments within UVM and with a variety of students in CDE’s Guaranteed Acceptance Program, as well as with the postbaccalaureate/pre-med program.

The rest of Ellen’s life was filled with adventure. At times you could find her downhill skiing, crewing in sailboat races, chartering sailboats in the Caribbean, windsurfing, kite skiing on frozen Lake Champlain, visiting numerous little islands in the Caribbean, and on trips to Paris and China. She always enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, as well. Ellen enjoyed her flower gardens and always loved a walk in the woods. She found joy in the eagle perched on a tree in the yard, or cataloging the birds and waterfowl out on the lake or in the woods and marsh behind us. The feeders were always filled, and she cherished those visitors just as well.

Ellen Morris - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Ellen Morris

No one could have guessed that her greatest passion would turn out to be skydiving. She came to skydiving later in life. Ellen’s first jump, at 47, came on her wedding anniversary in 1999. It alleviated her fear of heights, and she went on to do over 1,400 more jumps in the next 22 years. She earned her D license and a Static Line Instructors rating, and she served as S&TA for Vermont Skydiving Adventures for several years. Second only to her joy for jumping was teaching the first jump course to many dozens of new skydivers. (Yes, always a teacher.) Not all of them passed, but all of them lived. Many of her students have gone on to become instructors, as well, often because of her joy and inspiration. Ellen grew into the job of drop zone mom for many at Vermont Skydiving Adventures and found herself sharing jumps with many of her former students. We (Ellen and Barclay) jumped with numerous partners over the years but never had more fun than with our dear friends Joe Crossley, Laurelae Oehler and Ellen’s longtime skydiving mentor, Ole Thomsen.

Ellen leaves behind on this planet her best friend, fellow jumper and husband, Barclay. Also missing her are her three remaining cousins and their spouses: Ted Meyers and his wife, Salli; Steve Dsupin and his wife, Dot; and Brian Cannata and his wife, Joanne. She was also close to her married in-law family, as well: her brother and sister-in-law Bob and Gail Morris; her sister-in-law Judy Edwards; nieces Kristen and Jenny Edwards; and nephews and their wives Colin and Aubrey Morris and Sean Morris and Kelly Rothen-Morris. Equally important in her life were her extended family of 22 years at Vermont Skydiving Adventures and the wonderful and loving neighbors gained over 33 years in Grand Isle.

Ellen’s biggest donations were always to the Humane Society of Chittenden County. If you wish to honor her, please make a donation to your local humane society or animal shelter. (I’ll save the stories about her four-legged, furry and whiskered kids for next summer’s celebration.)

At the end, I have to shout out thanks to the doctors, nurses and physical therapists at UVM Medical Center who fought so hard for 21 months to try to conquer the cancer spreading through her body. We knocked it down several times, but Ellen just couldn’t quite defeat it. Their efforts gave us many wonderful days together that we wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

Ellen’s cremation was arranged by the Cremation Society of Chittenden County and Ready Funeral Home of Burlington, Vt. Her obituary is available on their website, as well at readyfuneral.com.

Due to COVID-19 worries and Vermont winter weather, there will be no visitation or services at this time. A celebration of Ellen’s life on Earth is planned for the summer of 2022, to be held in the islands of Lake Champlain.

Ellen was my best friend, fellow adventurer through life and wonderfully loving spouse. She passed away peacefully and gently at McLure Miller Respite House in Colchester under the loving care of a staff of angels disguised as neighbors and friends. She will be missed forever, and this house we built together will always be a little empty without her. Blue skies, girl.

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