|Hedwig - Hedy - Eller in 2009.|
When writing the word Northport I almost always describe ferry operations from that location. Today I'm writing a note of thanks, for having known Hedy Eller, who along with her husband Ernst lived in their retirement home near the head of the Northport dock since the early 1970s. They were our good neighbors, helpful, supportive and known to many on Washington Island and in the northern Door community.
Hedy was 97 when she passed away Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 at Scandia in Sister Bay. She had resided there for these last three years or so, and we occasionally stopped by to see her. In all of our visits she appeared vibrant, upbeat, with her smile and an infectious laugh.
She always seemed to know what was happening around her. She had a great faith, and with realism seemed to look forward to what lay ahead. She was an active parishioner of Stella Maris in Sister Bay, and thanks to good friends who drove her, she was able to attend worship services most Sundays. She never drove, even after Ernst died, but she had willing friends who transported her when needed.
One mannerism of Hedy's, and perhaps it was a contributing element to her title "Queen of Northport," was the way she seemed to dismiss, with a laugh, events or activities with which she might not be in full agreement. It was a slight inflection of her voice, a raised eyebrow, a quick look away, but never in disdain. Perhaps it was a sign of quiet, internal judgement. That was an endearing feature, and I viewed this as part of her good-humored disposition.
She warmed quickly if the topic of the Church entered conversation, the politics within and the organizational stresses on its leaders. She seemed to understand how their duty in service weighed upon them. Priests who served Washington Island and Sister Bay communities over the years were invited to enjoy a meal in her home, upon their return by ferry.
My favorite photo of Hedy and Ernst together was of them posing with a group of C. G. Richter passengers, shortly before they boarded for the trip home. While awaiting Coast Guard assistance to free the ferry from heavy ice for our trip home (some waited three days, others fewer), Hedy and Ernst opened up their home - kitchen, bathroom and even bedrooms - to strangers expecting to board the ferry and sail home through ice, perhaps an hour's undertaking at best. That experience revealed the nature of the Ellers' hospitality. By being open to everyone's needs, they also came to know regular Island travelers, passengers who owned seasonal homes and who waited in line each Friday night for the ferry.
Hedy's body will be buried Monday morning on Washington Island, alongside Ernst's.
Funeral services for Hedy Eller will be held in Sister Bay this Saturday morning.
Upon Ernst's death in 1988, an exception was made to an unwritten rule that, for Island burial one had to be either an Island resident or a property owner. Ernst was neither, but in his heart he was an Islander, a true neighbor who was sometimes referred to as "Mayor of Northport." His Queen has joined him.
- Dick Purinton