Ellyn Buehl Gehrett
Ellyn Buehl Gehrett, of Newtown and Bethany Beach, Delaware, passed away at Danbury Hospital late in the afternoon of July 18. A long-ago transplant to Newtown from the state of New York, she was proud to call Newtown home and fervently believed there was no better place to live.
Born August 3, 1929, in Philadelphia, to Christopher and Esther Shirey Buehl, her father was second generation German American and her mother was of Lancaster County Amish stock. Ellyn, during her childhood, also called Port Royal, Virginia, and Lewistown, Pennsylvania, home. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Ellyn met future husband Paul on a blind date in Lewistown. That date went very well and led to marriage.
Like many women of her time, Ellyn was wife, homemaker, and mom to daughters Christine and Jane Anne while raising her family in upstate New York. She believed in keeping a clean home and a family meal at the dinner table daily. Ellyn was a strong supporter of education and insisted her daughters obtain a college degree.
Her lifelong volunteerism began in New York and continued to the end of her life. An occupational therapy major, she volunteered those skills at the Binghamton State Hospital for the mentally ill. Ellyn also volunteered for brain-damaged children with a process called patterning as an attempt to reprogram early mobility skills. Active and supportive of her daughters’ high school endeavors, she became a daily sandwich maker to provide lunches and support extracurricular school activities lost through an austerity school budget.
Ellyn’s early influence extended outside her family and country. With daughters in high school, she hosted a French foreign exchange student for a year through AFS. Josy Bernard became an enduring member of the Gehrett family and learned to love America with Ellyn’s benign mothering. Thanks to Ellyn, an enduring transatlantic friendship began.
Children grown, Ellyn moved with Paul to Newtown and again embraced community volunteerism, making many good friends along the way. She was an enthusiastic member of Newtown Woman’s Club and the Newtown Congregational Church. A reliable table sponsor for the Regional Hospice of Western Connecticut Newtown breakfast, Ellyn chaired one annual event. She also enriched the lives of shut-ins by bringing and returning books to fellow readers. Those lacking transportation to and from medical appointments would find themselves in Ellyn’s car.
Ellyn ardently supported Meals on Wheels of Newtown for over 40 years, serving as driver, meal coordinator, and board member. In failing health the last month of her life, with true grit, she attended the June board of directors meeting. A fellow board member remembers that Ellyn was always concerned about meal recipients and wanted to assure their wellbeing.
Throughout life, Ellyn was a creative person, talented at crafts, sewing, knitting, and needlework. She enjoyed working as a floral designer. Ellyn dearly loved her Connecticut 1787 center chimney colonial home and enjoyed decorating and lavishing it with antiques and care.
Interest in her period home extended beyond to her community. Ellyn worked for many years as a realtor and enjoyed learning about Connecticut period homes, history, and architecture.
Ellyn traveled with Paul. She had a curiosity about other cultures and travels included Alaska, Canada, Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, and Greece.
Throughout her life, Ellyn was an avid reader. She always started her day reading the newspaper and was a constant subscriber to various news periodicals. She was a regular visitor to the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown, always had a book on hand, and never missed a used book sale if she could help it. The last used book sale visited was just before her death.
A large part of Ellyn’s life involved her love of animals, particularly cats and dogs. Innumerable dogs found themselves at her home over the years, primarily rescue dogs that through no fault of their own lost a home. Later in life, she learned the unique charm of a cat, and many cats also found their way to her home. She was unstinting with her love and care, catering to their whims and providing payment for sometimes enormous veterinary bills. Her current rescue cat, Frankie, is wondering where she is.
Ellyn and Paul shared the ups and downs of 71 years of marriage. Paul dedicated much of his life to taking care of Ellyn, and in her own unique way, she returned that love and care. Together they created enduring family ties, leading quietly by old fashioned example. All their adult lives, they supported God, family, and country through word and deed. Frequently seen together on the Newtown community scene, they have been described as a striking couple, tall and very stylish.
Ellyn was dearly loved and respected by her family. She and Paul were faithful travelers to their daughters’ homes in Pennsylvania, and a holiday wasn’t special without them. Called Gram by her grandchildren, Ellyn was known for unfailingly sharing her opinion, and was described by one grandchild as the funniest member of the family. The phrase, “’Let me tell you something...” was frequently heard.
Ellyn is survived by her husband, Paul, and daughters, Christine Falvello (Conrad) and Jane Holland; grandchildren, Anthony (Isabella), Alexis, Christina (Jonathan), Colin (Amy), Patrick (Brooke), and Anne; great-grandchildren, Wilson, Vittoria, Salvatore, Joseph, and Paul; and nephew and niece, Bill and Ann.
Those wishing to remember Ellyn will be welcomed by her family at Honan Funeral Home, 58 Main Street, Newtown, on July 30, from 5 to 7 pm. A service of remembrance and thanksgiving will take place at the sanctuary of Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street, Newtown, on July 31, at 10:30 am. Immediately following the service, family and friends are invited to a luncheon buffet at the church. The wearing of masks is requested. Interment will be held privately by the family.
Memorial Contributions may be made to: Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street, Newtown CT 06470; or Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, 110 Chapin Road, Hudson MA 01749.
Upon learning of her passing, a dear friend of Ellyn’s said she touched a lot of lives and a lot of us loved her to pieces. This is her legacy to her family, friends, and community.
To leave an online condolence, visit honanfh.com.