: 2:00 p.m. on Wedesday, January 26, 2011 at the Cardini-Pearson Funeral Home in Menahga, MN.
VISITATION: One hour prior to services at the funeral home on Wednesday.
INTERMENT: Alajoki Cemetery, Menahga, MN
SURVIVORS: Her daughters Karen Pelham and her husband Denis Jones, of London, England and LeeAnn Pelham, of Whittier, California; brother Leroy Karjala and his wife, Zoraida, of Maracaibo, Venezuela.
November 7, 1923 ~ January 16, 2011
Ellen K. Pelham, 87, of San Leandro, California, died peacefully on Sunday, January 16, 2011, with her daughters at her side. A Menahga native who maintained close ties to her beloved hometown throughout her life, Ellen was born in November 1923 to Levi and Lena (Hilton) Karjala and graduated from Menahga High School in 1941. She began work as an office clerk at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brainerd. In 1943, she moved with her family to Oakland, California, where she took a job with Moore Dry Dock as a welder on the Liberty Ships of WWII. Ellen later took an office job with General Electric Lampworks in Oakland. In 1957, she married Owen V. Pelham, also a Menahga native and high school classmate who had moved to California during the War years. Ellen and Owen were married for 19 years until his death in 1977. After the birth of their first daughter, Ellen decided to become a full-time Mom. She was active in her neighborhood association and served for many years as editor of its newsletter. While raising her two daughters, Karen and LeeAnn, she played active roles in their schools’ Parent Teacher Associations and served as President while Karen was in junior high school. Ellen returned to full-time work in the early 1970s, and retired from the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in San Leandro. After retirement, Ellen enjoyed spending time traveling with family and friends. Having found her church home at Hope Lutheran Church in San Leandro, Ellen was a longtime congregation member who helped out in the church office and until last year kept active by typing the weekly church bulletin.
Ellen was preceded in death by her grandparents, Andrew and Elsa Matilda (Kummala) Karjala, and Jonas and Fredriika (Juntunen) Hilton; her parents Levi and Lena (Hilton) Karjala; brothers Maynard and Lester; sisters Lillian Jones of Park Rapids, and Vilma; and by her husband Owen. In addition to many longtime and dear friends, she is survived by daughter Karen Pelham and her husband Denis Jones, of London, England; daughter LeeAnn Pelham, of Whittier, California; brother Leroy Karjala and his wife, Zoraida, of Maracaibo, Venezuela; and many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews, from Florida to Oregon.
Ellen was an inquisitive, open-minded, and independent trail blazer whose life is a beautiful example of kindness, compassion and purpose. She loved her extended family, her many friends, and her church community. And they cherished her. Her broad smile, bright eyes, big heart, and unending optimism were gifts she shared easily. She was quietly charitable in her actions. Her faith was humble but resolute, and it gave her the courage and strength to love and embrace life in all its ups and downs. Graciously accepting the challenges of declining health late in life, she would often remind friends and family of a prayer she made every day: “With the will and love of God in my heart, give me the courage and strength to keep on keeping on.” She believed that things would always work out, and they did, and that prayers would be answered, and they were.
Funeral services were held at Hope Lutheran Church in San Leandro, California, on Friday, January 21. Music included “Finlandia,” and the singing of “Be Still My Soul,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Rock of Ages,” and “How Great Thou Art.” Justin Goodwin, grandson of close family friend and neighbor Shirley Goodwin, gave the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 43: 2-3a. Lisa Santos Radzanowski, daughter of Julie DeRosier Santos, a fellow Minnesota native and dear friend of Ellen’s since their days as young office workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brainerd, read the New Testament reading from 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 . Matthew 25: 31-40 was the Gospel reading.
Menahga services will be held on Wednesday, January 26, at the Cardini-Pearson Funeral Home, with visitation with the family from 1 p.m., followed by a funeral service at 2 p.m. officiated by Dave Gabriel of Bigfork, Minnesota. Friends and family will serve as her casketbearers. In accordance with Ellen’s wishes, burial will follow at Alajoki Cemetery in Menahga, not far from her birthplace west of town. A luncheon for all attending will follow services, at the Menahga Senior Center.