Ella Mae Donovan

November 14, 1925March 11, 2023
Obituary of Ella Mae Donovan
Ella Mae Donovan, who died at age 97 on March 11, was a very complex woman — a loving partner to Bob for 75 years, a feminist before anyone had heard the word, a Giants fan extraordinaire, an enthusiastic advocate for the less fortunate and, always, a fashion plate! Ella Mae Schrader was born Nov. 14, 1925, in Massillon, Ohio, to William and Marie Schrader. The family included an older sister, Jean, a younger sister Rose Marie and a much younger brother William, who survives. In the early ‘30s, the family moved to Minerva, Ohio, a small town on the Lincoln Highway that shaped her values for her entire life. A childhood friend set Ella Mae up with a blind date with Robert Donovan while he was home from Purdue University on summer break in 1946. They married Dec. 28, 1947, and soon she was a small-town girl in a university community — the first of many of life’s jolts that she took in stride. Bob graduated from Purdue in February 1949 and went to work for United Airlines, which offered him a job transfer to San Francisco. Ella Mae reluctantly agreed, knowing they could always fly home to visit family. They moved their family, which now included son David, into their home in Belmont’s Sterling Downs neighborhood in 1960 and joined the Congregational Church of Belmont (CCB) that same year. During the Christmas season of 1965, Ella Mae started working part-time at The Emporium in the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. After Christmas, she was surprised to see her name on the work schedule for the next week. She stayed for the next 22 years, managing the men’s clothing department when she retired. At CCB, she struggled against the traditions that relegated women to the Women’s Fellowship and teaching Sunday School. She was the first woman to serve communion, to read the liturgy and to serve on the Board of Trustees. She battled for inclusive language in worship and quietly agitated for our Open and Affirming status. And she and Bob ran the jewelry department at decades of Rummage Sales at CCB. From 1993 to 2005, Ella Mae participated in the Women’s Health Initiative at Stanford University, allowing regular monitoring of her vital signs in an effort to understand how hormone replacement treatments affect women’s health. She was a volunteer into her 90’s, serving chocolate at Chocolate Fest, working polls during elections, ushering at plays and keeping the Blessing Box filled with canned goods. She loved games and sports of all kinds. Her letters to family were full of detail about the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby — and Giants games, of course. She and Bob were part of a season ticket consortium, and they saw them win three World Series! Thanks to United’s travel benefits, Ella Mae and Bob saw retirement as a chance to go whenever and wherever they wanted. They had a timeshare in Palm Springs and a cabin on Lake Berryessa. Elderhostel trips were favorites since they offered the chance to learn about the cultures they visited. She and Bob were lifelong learners who embraced the changes that a long life presents. Ella Mae is survived by Bob, who is now 101, her son David and his partner Sue Hendricks, and her brother William and his wife Edwina. She and Bob suffered the loss of a 5-month-old daughter, Barbara Kay, in 1951. Over the years, Ella Mae became the family chronicler, sending monthly letters to the extended Ohio family that always included an update on how the Giants were doing at the time. One of her last requests was that friends and family would sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game! as her ashes were scattered. Ella Mae’s life will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Congregational Church of Belmont, 751 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont, Calif. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested donations in Ella Mae’s name to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or Shriners’ Hospital for Children. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Donovan family.

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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Celebration of Life