Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Ellen Margaret Ireland

July 12, 1962 - September 16, 2005
Holland, MI



Monday, September 19, 2005
1:00 PM EDT
Ridge Point Community Church


Monday, September 19, 2005
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM EDT
Ridge Point Community Church


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

P.O. Box 6643 Lawrenceville NJ 08648

De Vos Childrens Hospital
Grand Rapids MI

Life Story / Obituary


Ellen Margaret Ireland had an inner strength that encouraged those around her and gave them hope. She had endured many difficulties throughout her life and yet maintained her sense of humor and faith in God. A dedicated wife, mother, daughter, and sister, she loved her family deeply and wanted to give them all she could to make them happy.

On July 12, 1962, Ellen became the second of five children born to Michael and Patricia (Yeske) Callender. In their hometown of St. Joseph , Ellen's father worked hard to support the family as a butcher and owner of a small neighborhood grocery, Mike's Market, where "You can't beat our meat." He also was an Insurance Representative for Aid Association for Lutherans. Ellen developed a strong work ethic while helping her father in the store and also cleaning up the family's horse stalls every morning before school. Within six years, the Callenders had four daughters. They took a six-year break before they had their fifth child, a son. Patricia was Lutheran and Michael was Catholic, so the children's upbringing included religious training, which influenced Ellen's outlook for the rest of her life. She was sent to a Lutheran school through the eighth grade, then attended Lakeshore High School in Stevensville. She participated as a cheerleader and remained active in dance classes throughout her high school years, even finding time to teach classes of her own. Ellen graduated in 1980.

After high school, Ellen attended Davenport University in Kalamazoo , earning her travel agent license. She lived in an apartment with some friends and worked hard to get through school, maintaining a job at Adventure Travel during the day and another at a hospital at night. Her hard work paid off and she was both proud and relieved to complete her training.

In 1982, Ellen married Keith Wilson, a match that ended in 1990. Divorce is never easy, but one wonderful thing that Ellen treasured from their relationship was their beautiful daughter, Megan Margaret. Megan was born on January 15, 1989, and Ellen was instantly enamored with her the moment she laid eyes on that little girl. Ellen adored being a mother. Ellen's concern for others didn't stop with Megan. Her younger sister Laura had moved to San Francisco , and the distance at times made Ellen uneasy. The straw that broke the camel's back was the earthquake that shook the Bay area in October of 1989. It was the worst quake since 1906, taking sixty-two lives and leaving more than twelve thousand people homeless. When Ellen saw the news coverage of collapsed bridges and freeways, fires, shattered buildings, gaping cracks in roads, and frightening scenes from the third game of the World Series at Candlestick Park, she instantly determined to travel to San Francisco to make sure Laura was alright. Ellen was determined to bring Laura back to Michigan where she could keep an eye on her and get to her.

Ellen worked for a travel agency for many years and enjoyed her job and co-workers. She was pleased to be able to take vacations with every single one of her siblings, happy to give them something they could really enjoy. Ellen's job offered her another perk as well. She had moved to Midland to work for another agency and a friend in the industry introduced her to an Avis rental agent, Rick Ireland. She and Rick hit it off and on September 24, 1994, the couple exchanged vows.

In March of 1994, Ellen had moved back to the Holland area to work at Magna Donnelly and was pleased to be closer to family, especially when she found out that she was expecting another baby. When Marissa Grace was born on April 21, 1996, Ellen and Rick were overjoyed and couldn't wait for Megan to meet her beautiful baby sister. She loved spending time with her girls, and Megan and Marissa spent countless hours dancing with Ellen, enjoying various classes and performances together. Ellen loved being with her family and looked forward to visits. They in turn looked forward to her dry humor and delicious blueberry pies as well as her other tasty baked goods. She trained her fifteen nieces and nephews to refer to her as the "Favorite Aunt Ellen." Her organizational skills were an obvious help in her job, but she also planned family gatherings and helped the household run smoothly.

The family received a heavy blow when Ellen was diagnosed with cervical cancer in July of 2004. As they were trying to come to grips with Ellen's illness, they learned on Christmas Day of that year that Marissa had leukemia. There was no time for self-pity as Ellen had to begin juggling Marissa's treatments with her own. The two drew courage from one another as they both battled bravely. The Irelands were encouraged by the support of their community. Friends organized a dance-a-thon and bake sale to help raise funds for the family's medical expenses and a Family Benefit Fund was set up at Fifth Third Bank to receive other donations. Marissa's classmates at Quincy Elementary School also pitched in, collecting loose change from all over Zeeland, and students at Roosevelt Elementary also organized a fundraiser for the Irelands . The compassion of others, faith, and her immeasurable love for her daughters helped Ellen remain positive through her ordeal. More than anything, she wanted her girls to grow up to be good people, happy, healthy, and strong. Her body has left them, but they will continue to hear her voice and see her smile, knowing that she gave them her heart.

Ellen died at The Hospice House of Holland on Friday, September 16, 2005. Her father, Michael Callender, preceded her in death in 1985. Her family includes her husband, Rodrick "Rick" Ireland of Holland; daughters, Megan Wilson and Marissa Ireland of Holland; mother, Patricia Albright and step father James Albright II; sisters and brothers, Grace (Tom) Dykstra of Ada, Laura (Steve) Jaeger of Kalamazoo, Catherine (John) Glassman of Sodus, Adam (Becky) Callender of Granger, Indiana, Scott (Kerrie) Albright of Buchanan, and Phil (Reegan) Albright of Niles; grandfathers Rolland Yeske and James (Pop) Albright I, numerous in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Cremation has taken place and a Celebration of Ellens Life Service will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 19, at the Ridge Point Community Church of Holland , the Rev. Jim Liske will be officiating. Visitation will be from 2-4 p.m. at the church after the service. Please visit Ellen's personal memory page at where you may share a memory, order flowers, or make a memorial contribution.


First Speaker: Grace (Callender) Dykstra


Well, some things never change. I was told I had to go first. My name is Grace Michelle Dykstra and I'm the oldest of the "Callender kids." We are here today to celebrate the life of my dear sister, Ellen Margaret. But before we do that, I'd just like to take a moment to first thank God for our grandparents, aunts and uncles. But most of all for our parents, Patricia Grace Yeske and Michael LeRoy Callender. I would also like to thank our step Dad, Jim Albright, for all his added support and for always being there.

Our parents' love and dedication have always reflected God's love. Our Mom was determined to have her children "close" together so that "we" would always have each other. Both our parents did with out many things and often worked two jobs so that we could go to private Lutheran schools. It is no surprise to me that both hymns Ellen choose were from the Lutheran Children's hymnal. Beautiful Savior was the first hymn we had to memorize in Kindergarten.

Ellen and I were only 15 months apart. I do not remember life with out my sister Ellen. Ellen always had the most beautiful curls and we often held hands. We enjoyed many years of playing, dressing up, singing, dancing, cheering and playing basketball together. We often performed "shows" for our parents. Family has always been a very important part of our lives. Our parents taught us that families worked hard to help LOVE and support each other. We also shared each others' burdens.

Ellen and I often shared a bed or bedroom. Our Mom was our Brownie leader and she made sure we made new friends and kept the old. Ellen went to dance and I took piano. Ellen loved the ballerina curtains that we had on Church Street.

It wasn't long before Ellen was taller than me. Often people thought she was the oldest. We jumped rope together and played for hours outside riding bikes and playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. Ellen had very long legs and was very graceful. She taught me how to do cartwheels, but only she "mastered" the one handed cartwheel and could do them the entire length of our block.

When we moved to the subdivision on North Aurilla Drive, we had a wild patriotic bedroom with rep carpet and blue and white wall paper. We slept together; often telling each other secrets and discussing which boys we thought were cute. We often "drew" pictures on each others back before going to sleep. We LOVED each other.

It wasn't long before our dear brother Adam was born. We then moved to the farm house on John Beers Rd. My parents bought a fixer-upper in the country knowing that we all needed more room.

Ellen and I were in the same classroom together at Grace Lutheran. I was in 8th and she was in 7th. Our Mom sewed our black and gold uniforms. We won a first place trophy cheering together our hit cheer "team on the beam."

We spent many nights sleeping together on the floor of the living room on a huge feather bed. We shared many stories and giggles. We learned quickly that staying close kept us warm both inside and out.

Lakeshore High School would never be the same having three of the Callender girls at once. Ellen loved dancing and was eager to teach us all the "new moves."

Time went by quickly. We stood up in each others' weddings being each others' maid of honor. Ellen picked beautiful yellow dresses for her wedding. We kept in touch by phone and visited each other often. Our Love kept us close. Sisters Love each other.

Ellen had called me the day she was in labor with Megan. I packed up Erica, put her in the car seat and headed to Keith and Ellen's trailer. Keith was shaving and waiting for the doctor to call back. I told Keith that the baby wasn't going to wait. I then followed them to the hospital.

I feel blessed to have been Megan's first babysitter. Ellen often came over on her lunch hour when she worked at the Travel Bug. I was there for Ellen during her divorce and she was there for me. We always had each other.

When Rick and Ellen were engaged, the bachelorette party started and ended at my house. We had a wild and wonderful time and once again the Callender girls shared a bed together.

Love - Ellen was full of LOVE. She was always eager to help others. Ellen loved sweets and was willing to bake a pie, cookies or pumpkin bars for any occasion. We often went on sister crops together. Sometimes Ellen cropped and other times she just ate brownies. Ellen organized many family parties. She also coordinated with everyone to surprise Mom with a birthstone ring for Mother's Day with all 7 kids' birthstones.

When Ellen was first diagnosed with cervical cancer, she took time to spend with all of us. Before her chemo treatments, she and her family came to our place to take pictures with all the fall colors. We then shared a meal together. She wanted to do this before her energy level would decrease and before she would loose her hair from chemo. Ellen continued to remain strong and positive.

The only time that Ellen really broke down with me was on Christmas Eve. She was very upset when she found out Marissa was diagnosed with Leukemia. Once again Ellen's LOVE pushed them through another stressful circumstance. Even though Ellen was undergoing chemo, radiation and blood transfusions herself, she stayed at the hospital with Marissa. They often shared the hospital bed together. Ellen's LOVE reminds me of a Bible verse found in Ephesians 5:1:

Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of LOVE. Just as Christ LOVED us and gave himself up for us.

Ellen had many wonderful, joyful days here on this earth. We were all privileged to be near her. She also had many difficult days. We often had devotions together and held hands.

On one magnificent Thursday, Ellen received some reiki therapy as she listened to fairy music. Never before had I seen Ellen so relaxed. She slept more than she ever had on my "shift." When she woke up, she said that her left leg felt better than ever. That evening Ellen heard her cat, Emma, in her bedroom and asked me to check on her. Emma was on the floor holding a very small magic wand that Ellen had kept by her night stand. I gave the wand to Ellen as we both had "Goosebumps." Ellen smiled, closed her eyes and took the wand in a circle around her face. She then said "I'm cancer free."

Only our Beautiful Savior could rid Ellen of the cancer which slowly took over her body. Verse 3 of Beautiful Savior reads:

Fair is the sunshine, fair is the moonlight,

Bright the sparkling stars on high

Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer

Than all the ANGELS in the sky.

Second Speaker: Catherine (Callender) Glassman


I'm Ellen's youngest sister Catherine (#4). Ellen celebrated her 43rd Birthday on July 12th of this year. With the business of her hospital trips prior to leaving for Ohio, birthday shopping was put on the back burner. Laura was planning on being with Ellen through her surgery, so Grace and I talked about having a bit of an "extreme bedroom make-over" to Ellen's bedroom "while she was out."

Being the caring, loving mother that she was, Ellen had painted, and repainted Megan and Marissa's bedrooms several times, putting her own bedroom on hold for a different time. Ellen's room was still the same eggshell / off-white from 10 years ago when they moved in.

With the help of dear friends, Holly, Miss Cindy and her daughter Miss Jacky, we chose a Daffodil yellow (one of Ellen's favorites) and a Blue Bird blue to accent it. Once in action, the creative juices started flowing. Miss Cindy and Miss Jacky found a great picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and had it framed. We decorated the room with memorabilia of places Ellen had traveled through out her life.

When it came to adding the final touches, we talked about painting some words of inspiration. Marissa, Megan and Leah came up with a list of about 30 or so words.

Finally we decided to choose one word each. Megan painted the first word - Believe. Holly chose Peace, Miss Jacky's word was Dream. Grace's word was Love, Leah painted Laugh, and I had the last word - Faith.

Ellen's faith was very important to her. Her faith never wavered. Her faith was shown to all around her, not so much in words, but in her life example of living. It was by this faith that Ellen chose today's scripture from the book of Jeremiah 29:11-12:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,

"Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you

Hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come

and pray to me, and I will listen to you."

Third Speaker: Laura (Callender) Jaeger

"Hope & Strength"

My name is Laura Callender Jaeger and I've had the privilege of knowing Ellen my whole life. My earliest memory of childhood is that Ellen sucked her left thumb and I sucked my right thumb. This came in handy as we were able to spend a great deal of time holding hands, sucking thumbs and watching Grace entertain us. For those of you who know Grace, you can imagine how she enjoyed her audience, so we spent many hours this way.

Growing up we were very fortunate to have a large, close family. Ellen and I shared a room and a double bed for many years. We were very excited the day our parents wallpapered our room with tiny yellow flowers. Ellen's favorite color was yellow and I'm not sure which came first - the wallpaper or the favorite color. That wallpaper still hangs at my mom and Jim's house.

Ellen also hung a poster of Hawaii in our bedroom and talked about her wish to travel. During our childhood, our parents took our family on as many vacations as possible - Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, the Wisconsin Dells, the Mackinaw Bridge, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Disney World and Busch Gardens in Florida and good old Timber Trails in Decatur, Michigan. Please keep in mind that we drove on these vacations in a station wagon or van - two parents, four or five kids and all our "stuff" - we were a close family!

When Ellen moved out of our bedroom, she became a travel agent and within the next few years, I moved to San Francisco. One of the perks Ellen received as a travel agent allowed her to use vouchers to take travel companions on trips. During the late 80's and 90's, Ellen took turns bringing our siblings and Megan out to California to visit. Ellen also brought me back from California after the 1989 earthquake as she wanted to keep an eye on me to make sure I was alright. Even though I lived in California, Ellen also wanted to take me on a trip. She told me she had earned vouchers to Hawaii, but didn't have the money for the accommodations. Fortunately, that same week, my friends at Citibank sent me some vouchers for the InterContinental on Maui - so off we went to Hawaii. Ellen also brought Rick, Megan and Marissa out to San Francisco. In fact, Rick and Ellen celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary out there just last September and Ellen and Marissa spent this past Spring Break there along with me and my family and our dear friend Roger. As a result of her many trips over the years, San Francisco became Ellen's favorite city in the whole world.

Ellen also traveled to other parts of the world with her co-workers. This travel involved cruises and trips to Germany and China. She saw the Great Wall of China and the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, which had a special place in her heart because it was the model for Cinderella's castle at Disney World. She also sent many people all over the world and loved to hear the stories about their travels when they returned. Ellen loved to travel and her e-mail name "travel gal" could not have been more appropriate.

During Ellen's battle with cancer, Ellen continued to travel as she searched for hope. In May, we went to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. Although Ellen was in pain during this trip, she still wanted to enjoy all that New York City had to offer. We managed to ride through Central Park in the Spring Time in a horse drawn carriage; we had dinner at Tavern on the Green. This was a very special trip to both of us.

Ellen's next journey to The James Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio, was not an easy one. We were hopeful that Ellen could be a candidate for surgery, but the cancer had spread too far. This was the last hope for a cure.

When Ellen returned home she was physically weaker, but stronger in many ways. Ellen spoke about three trips she still wanted to take - a Disney Cruise, a trip to Walt Disney World and another trip to San Francisco. Ellen also talked about how she wanted everyone to be together. Her list included people who gave her hope - family members and close friends. She spoke about how she loved her family dearly and understood if they couldn't join her on her trip to San Francisco, but she had to go.

It wasn't until Ellen went to the Hospice House of Holland that she and I spoke candidly about her final journey. I told her it was going to be okay and she said she knew. I told her she had a flight to take and that she was getting her wings to fly. In the final hours on Friday morning, Rick spoke about a mansion with her name on it and he asked her to take care of it until he came to join her -- I'm sure Ellen had a few comments about that. We spoke about the people Ellen loved who would be there to welcome her into heaven, including our dad, grandmas and grandpa, our aunt, our niece and special friends. Rick told her that our dad was going to want the first dance. We told her we were going to miss her, but we would be okay and we would be with her again. After she was reassured that Rick, our family and friends would take good care of Megan and Marissa, Ellen caught her flight.

On Friday when we left the Hospice House, Rick, Catherine and I were in the car driving past Dutch Village. Since it was a beautiful day, we had the windows down when suddenly we heard the Beer Barrel Polka. Ellen and I have always been polka partners, but I know she was up there dancing with our dad.

The strength that Ellen showed everyone during her fight with cancer was amazing. Ellen had hope. Hope for a cure and now she is pain free and dancing with angels. Ellen found hope and strength through love and her faith. My hope is that we all can be a little like Ellen and find strength and courage as we continue our journey.

We will always be thankful that Ellen was our sister. In 1987, she made me a cross-stitch of a poem that perfectly captures how I feel about her -- today and always. It reads:

"Memories of childhood we share and treasure,

A special friendship one cannot measure,

A love that is always deep and true...

These are my feelings, my Sister, for you."