On Monday, August 3, 2020, daughter of the late William and Elsie McCormick. Sister of the late Bernice English, Ben, and Bill McCormick. Aunt of Shirley (Ray) Aleski, Clyde (Nancy) English, Dr. William A. (Ann) McCormick III, Bonnie (John) McConnell, and JoAnn (Rob) Sanders. Also survived by many great-nieces, great-nephews, great-great-nieces, and great-great-nephews.
Eleanor was a lifelong active member of Union Presbyterian Church, singing in the choir for over 50 years.
Arrangements entrusted to SZAFRANSKI-EBERLEIN FUNERAL HOME, INC., where family and friends will be received on Friday from 3-7 p.m. at 101 third St., Carnegie. Funeral Services in Union Presbyterian Church on Saturday at 11 a.m. Burial in Union Cemetery. EVERYONE PLEASE MEET AT THE CHURCH.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Union Presbyterian Church music program,
6165 Steubenville Pike, McKees Rocks, PA 15136.
by William A. McCormick, III
I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the family. My name is Bill McCormick and Eleanor was my beloved aunt, the baby sister of her sister Bernice, Brother Ben and my dad, Bill, Jr.
Everyone who knew her will have their own stories and experiences to relate. The following is a snapshot of her life and how I experienced it.
Elly was nearly 22 years old when I was born. So obviously, her early life and formative years are only known to me by stories told by her and family members.
She stayed on the farm with her Aunt Etta during WW II as her brothers were overseas in the military and her parents were in Rochester and Ambridge working to support the war effort. She played the clarinet in the Robinson High School band and years later briefly played with the local community orchestra. She loved opera and classical music. A stellar student, she graduated near the top of her class. Her excellent alto voice was enjoyed and appreciated at many concerts, weddings and church services. She was a devoted member of Union Church’s choir for more than 50 years. To my knowledge, she was the longest continuous member of Union Church at a the time of her death, having been baptized here 93 years ago.`
While growing up, I always wanted to be taller, like my dad, grandfather, and cousin, Clyde. Aunt Elly told me she always wanted to be shorter. She said she was always the tallest girl in school and church choir pictures.
I lived in the loghouse across the road from the barn and just up the road from the McCormick farmhouse, with my parents for a couple years. Elly was a reliable nearby baby sitter when my parents wanted to go out to the movies. When I would be dropped off at the farmhouse and entrusted to the care of grandparents and aunts, I would ask where my parents were going. Elly would tell me they are going to the “ABC” and they would be back later to pick me up. As a three year old, that usually satisfied me. While there, she would entertain me and play with her cats. She was especially fond of black cats. She gave me my first cat and named him Finklestein. Some of her other cats were named Cleopatra, Baby Sitter, Meow Meow, and George. They lived in an old covered box on the porch and Elly called it her “cat house”! She also had another pet before my time, that she kept in her room and slept with. It was a rooster! Her niece, Shirley, was invited to stay overnight once but she refused to sleep in the same room with that rooster.
Sometimes, Elly would come up to the loghouse to watch TV with me. I remember the Dave Garroway show where he would sometimes have a chimpanzee on named J. Fred Muggs. The chimp wore a shirt that had a big question mark on the front. And of course I wanted to know why? Elly with her quick wit and and infinite wisdom told me it was because he was quizzical. This led me to always ask to turn Quizzy on when I wanted to watch TV. To this day, my family still refers to the TV as Quizzy.
In 1953, my parents and I moved into the newly constructed home built by my dad about a quarter mile from the farmhouse. On Sunday mornings, my dad would drive down in his Rambler station wagon and pick up Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Etta, Elly and along with me and my mother, we would head off to church. I didn’t know for a long time why Aunt Elly would always greet and call my mother “Macurdee”. I finally asked my mother why Aunt Elly called her “Macaroni”? And I was told it was just Aunt Elly’s pet name for her using her maiden name of McCurdy with a slight twist in pronunciation.
Once my sisters, Bonnie and JoAnn came along and joined the Sunday morning trek to church, it made for a very crowded vehicle.
One Sunday after church, on the way home, my mother said we were out of milk. We stopped at a little store that was at the time, unique, as it was open on Sunday. Grandma and Elly said they were low on milk also and could use a loaf of bread. Not wanting to be seen making a Sunday purchase, I was “voluntold” to go in and buy the items. When I came out everyone asked if there was anyone in there that knew me. I said, “Oh yes, Rev. Cook and he said to say hello.” They all thought I was making a joke until a moment later Rev. Cook came out of the store behind me and Elly and the others tried to duck down so as not to be seen. I just laughed and told them if the minister was buying on Sunday, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. How times have changed.
I always enjoyed going down to the farmhouse, especially if there was some activity in which I could participate. One such day, I was invited to go berry picking with Grandma, Aunt Etta, and Aunt Elly. Grandpa got the old sled, put 2” X 6” boards across the sides for us as seats to sit on during the ride out the orchard road. He then climbed up on the tractor and Elly told me to hang on. Grandpa was not the smoothest on the clutch and when he pulled out, I was knocked off the board backwards. I was OK but Elly said with a laugh, “ I told you to hang on!”
Elly and Grandma loved to watch soap operas while they did ironing and folding of clothes. If anyone happened to come for a visit during their “stories” they might get a nod, grunt, uh huh, but otherwise it was best to come back after the shows were done. I think their favorites were The Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow.
Elly was a fine baker of cakes, especially chocolate cakes. Numerous birthdays, holiday celebrations and family dinners were graced with her baked goods. We finally learned her secret ingredient was coffee which she added to her mixtures. It was not a cake but a pumpkin pie that Elly was getting ready to place whipped cream on that created another memorable moment at the farmhouse dinner table. After shaking the can, she depressed the nozzle and with great pressure the whipped cream shot out hitting the pie and then splashed across the the table. Unfortunately, her Aunt Lina was in direct line of the spray and was plastered across her face. Elly was surprised and embarrassed but not enough to keep her from laughing with the rest of us. After wiping her face and glasses, Aunt Lina thought it was a humorous accident.
Another vivid memory of Elly was her long brown hair which she took great pains to care for. I can still see her sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace combing and drying it before then placing braids or her famous tightly woven bird nest, as I called it, on top of her head. When she finally did cut her hair, I recall her saying it was 39 inches long.
Her favorite color was lavender/purple which she sported in many of her outfits and hats. I would always try to find birthday cards that included her beloved lavender and wrap presents for her with the same. Today, I wear this purple tie to honor her. She also loved leopard print clothing, large purses to carry all her gear and was always ready at a moments notice to go shopping for bargains at Gabe's and TJ Max.
She along with all the others, worked hard on the farm but did enjoy an occasional break to attend the Over 21 Dances at Webster Hall in Pittsburgh. It was about 50 years ago that she was at a dance and called me for a ride home. She had met a nice guy but she declined his offer for a ride home. Once I got there, she introduced me, and her gentleman friend offered to buy us drinks. Once I finally got Elly home, well after 1 am, the lights were still on in the living room. She remarked, “Oh no. Mother is still up!” Elly made me come in to back up her story as to why were were so late. Grandma was acting as if Elly were a teenage daughter and we all had a good laugh.
Elly did have a serious relationship, sometime in the 50s, with a soldier from eastern PA. They were apparently talking about getting married but he was tragically killed in an auto accident. She never talked about it or shared any other information with me.
Her entire life, she took care of her Aunt Etta and her parents. After Aunt Etta and her father died , she continued to live in the farmhouse with her mother until it was destroyed by fire in 1978. They then moved to the log house up the road. Her mother died in 1988 but Elly continued to live there until it began to deteriorate and then moved in with niece Shirley and her husband Ray. They opened their home to her and catered to all her needs. After several years, it was evident that Elly was going to need 24/7 care and Shirley helped to arrange for Elly to live at Asbury Heights nursing facility. This was a very difficult decision for Shirley as she had promised Grandma that she would take care of Elly. But by getting her into Asbury Heights, she was continuing to take care of Elly. Great job Shirley. Well done.`
During her time at Asbury Heights, I would periodically visit Elly, show her pictures of my boys and recount some of their exploits. She loved to read thriller novels and we tried to keep her supplied with her favorite authors, James Patterson and Danielle Steele. Between visits, I would send her cards, notes and write newsy letters. On a visit shortly after her 91st birthday, I asked her what it was like being 91? Her one word answer was, “terrible!”
We last visited her on July 3rd. It was a window visit due to the Corona Virus Pandemic. We talked briefly to her on a cell phone that her nurse held to her ear while she sat in a wheelchair. It was very obvious she was very weak and took great effort for her to make the trip down from her room. We had hoped to visit her again on her birthday, July 24th, but she was too weak. She died on August 3, 2020, joining a great cloud of witnesses that preceded her.
Elly was quick witted, good humored, and lived a life of doing things for others. She will be missed but never forgotten by those who knew and loved her.
I would like to close with a poem by Colleen Hitchcock titled Ascension.
Try to imagine Elly saying these words to all of us.
…And if I go,
While you’re still here…
Know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
behind a thin veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again,
—both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest.
And when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart,
—I will be there.