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Jeanne L. Ellis, 66

Dr. Jeanne Louise Ellis (née Barnes), age 66, of Virginia, formerly of Howard Lake, died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, in Charlottesville, VA in the company of her children, Jennifer and Joshua, and in the hearts and memories of friends and family in many corners of the world.

An adventurous, independent, and spiritual woman, Jeanne was a devoted daughter, an intrepid traveler, a demanding teacher, a loving mother and grandmother, an inspiring friend, and a whimsical, worldly soul. She will be greatly missed.

A native of Howard Lake, Jeanne was the daughter of the late Vera Barnes (née Schmidt) and Eugene Barnes. She was valedictorian of the Howard Lake High School class of 1963, narrowly besting cousin and lifelong best friend, Jean Bobrowske Weber.

Jeanne grew up traveling, often spending summers on cross-country treks to see her father’s relatives in Texas, and her love of the road never waned.

She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1967, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1968. At both institutions, she focused on and cultivated her love of Spanish language and literature. To that end, she lived and traveled in Spain, and then began wandering further afield.

She hitched her way through Europe and Latin America during tumultuous times; she witnessed the 1967 Greek military coup, and the 1968 Mexico City student massacres firsthand. Her language abilities attracted the attention of the CIA, and Jeanne had almost completed operative training when she abruptly quit because, “nobody else knew what they were doing.”

She was a traveler to the end, and had lived in Australia and New Zealand for four months; joined her son in Ireland, Japan, Italy, and Mexico; wandered the Plains states with her granddaughter, Heather, visiting sites from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels; and just weeks before her passing, took Heather on a sightseeing expedition to Washington, DC.

Jeanne earned her PhD from Cornell University in 1984, and was a professor of Spanish language and literature at many fine academic institutions – among them Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, NY, the University of New Hampshire, and more recently, in Virginia at Sweet Briar College, Randolph-Macon Women’s College, Hampden-Sydney, and Piedmont Valley Community College. She was admired by her peers, and her students quickly learned the value of rigor, precision, and preparation.

Jeanne is survived by her children, a daughter Jennifer Ellis Corton of Chesapeake, VA, Jennifer’s husband Lt. Col. Jeffrey Corton, US Army, and their daughter, Heather Margaret Barnes Corton; and a son, Joshua Nathaniel Barnes Ellis of Chicago, IL.

Jeanne’s Minnesota family, the Schmidts, live mostly in the Twin Cities area – her aunt and uncle Julia and Orville, and cousins Joyce, Julie, Joane, Jim, John, Nick, and Mike, and their wonderful families.

As importantly to Jeanne, she is survived by a life’s worth of dear friends and travel companions – Jean, Kitty, Grace, and so, so many more.

At her request, there was no formal memorial service. Friends and family will spread her ashes at her mountain home in the spring of 2012.

Jeanne asked that gifts in her memory be directed to the Nature Conservancy (my.nature.org/donate/tribute-giving.html). Her children also encourage gifts to support the admirable work of the Thomas Hospice House in Charlottesville, VA (www.hopva.org).

Jeanne squeezed the essence out of life – every last drop – and will be missed, but never forgotten. To honor her memory, pick a place on the map, pack a bag, and go.