Eleanor Anne (Wesslen) Holsman, 88, of Ripton


RIPTON — Eleanor Anne (Wesslen) Holsman, passed away on May 8, 2024, surrounded by love and support.

Born on Sept. 3, 1935, in Ware, Mass., Ellie was the second daughter born to Alfred and Annabelle (Goodrich) Wesslen.

Some of Ellie’s earliest memories had to do with her small stature, including needing books put under her feet to keep them from dangling in elementary school. She also carried memories of wartime with her, hating margarine until the day she died because one of her chores at home was squishing the color tablets into their margarine. VE and VJ Days were days of joy and hope for her, and she often told her family stories about those celebrations.

A graduate of Northfield School for Girls, Ellie worked vacations at the Ware Knitters textile mill, where her sister, mother, and father all worked as well. Later, she would attend college to become a primary school teacher. From a young age, Ellie loved to travel, and traveled the world with her sister and friend Judy, including traveling to Egypt, all over Europe and the former Soviet Union, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. She also taught and lived in Germany, and was one of the first civilian Americans to pass through Checkpoint Charlie to enter East Germany. Later in her life, she returned to traveling with her sister, including trips to Italy and Russia.

Soon after returning to the United States, Ellie was teaching in a public school near Lenox, Mass., where she met Wayne Holsman, and they became friends. A decision to co-buy and raise a basset hound named Justina Jane led to their romance and later marriage.

Over the next decade, they would live and teach in several private schools, then Wayne moved on to be minister of several churches and Ellie would teach in public schools in the area. In 1969, they welcomed their only child, Kristin.

One week after the Bicentennial of the United States, Ellie, Wayne and Kristin moved to Brandon, Vt. While the family only lived in Brandon for a year, the move to Vermont was permanent, and the family lived in Salisbury and Ripton from then on.

In late 1976, Ellie started serving as a substitute teacher for Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, and she would continue to serve the local community in the schools until less than a year before her death. Her dedication to the children in RNESU and local communities was complete, and she gave them her love and passion for decades, and taught multiple generations of local families.

Besides her love of teaching and working with children, Ellie was a tireless advocate for civil rights and human dignity. Even in her late 80s, she attended political marches and events, and never shied from being open about her advocacy.

When not at school working with children, Ellie could most often be found in her gardens, very proud of her vegetables and flowers. Her daffodils will bloom in Ripton for decades to come.

Ellie’s greatest joys came from her grandchildren. Amie, Ryan, Sam, and Ben gave her such joy, and she was so proud of both their accomplishments, and the amazing human beings they are. Meeting her great-grandchildren and getting to spend time with them was another level of joy for her. She was so interested in watching them come into their own identities, and was so proud of their strength and tenacity.

Ellie was predeceased by her parents; her sister Barbara and her husband John; her nephew Michael; her husband, Wayne; and her beloved grandson Sam.

She is survived by her daughter, Kristin and husband Paul; nephew Ed and family; grandchildren Amie and spouse Jen, Ryan and partner Kayla, and Ben; “adopted” grandchildren Linnea and Shane; great-granddaughter, Sora; and great-grandsons, Rowan and Shay. She also is survived by a wonderful group of friends from Leicester School and RNESU.

The family would like to thank Amy Curtis of Addison County Home Health for her love, support, and guidance, as well as the rest of the team at ACHH for their help over the last months. The family also would like to thank Project Independence for their love and support, as well as the outstanding palliative care team at Porter Hospital. Finally, the family would like to thank Lyndsay D’Avignon for her tireless support, love, and help over the last year.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to support literacy and a love of reading in children, or Project Independence in Middlebury, Vermont.

A celebration of Ellie’s life will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, at the Leicester Meeting House, with a reception immediately following at Otter Creek Academy/Leicester Central School.

Arrangements by Miller & Ketcham Funeral Home of Brandon. ◊

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