Ellen Whalen once gave my mother, her first cousin, a framed photo of Ellen’s dad, Vincent Kleman Sr., who was then around 90, using a baby’s bottle to feed a tame doe. That ah-inspiring photo of Uncle Vince came to mind when we learned that Ellen had died at age 78. (No matter how long a good person lives, it’s never long enough.)
That photo reminded us how much Ellen resembled her dad — physically, but even more in her kind, gentle and faith-filled nature. The dark eyes of father and daughter mirrored those of the doe in the picture and reflected that sense of gentleness. They both liked to laugh, but never at another’s expense.
The young deer reflects Ellen’s love for animals. One of the earliest pictures of her is Ellen as a toddler and her dad playing with a Dachshund mix. After the death of her husband, Frank, one of closest friends was her dog, Honey Francis.
Of course, her three children, Margaret “Sissy,” John and Joyce and their spouses, her five grandchildren and a great-grandson were the joys of her life. Ellen and her siblings, Vincent Jr. and Margaret, were likewise at the center of the lives of their parents, Vince Sr. and Margaret.
As her son John noted in his eulogy at the Mass, Ellen’s love of family and friends, as well as animals, was based on her love for God. The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was at the epicenter of her entire life. It was where she endured her greatest trials — the death of her mother when Ellen was barely out of high school and the loss of her beloved Frank — and greatest joys such as her wedding and her children’s and grandchildren’s baptisms.
Psalm 42:2 epitomizes Ellen’s life: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God” (NABRE). Ellen has been reunited with the father she resembled and the mother she lost so early. Those whose souls long for God and who love Ellen will be one day be reunited with her in God’s presence.