FREDERICKTOWN – Ellen Divelbiss's favorite color was blue.
He showed up in small pockets of his life. When she and Terry bought their first home, after raising their three boys in a two-bedroom apartment for 12 years while he started the family business, he wanted the kitchen countertops to be blue. So they were.
The family album continues the narration. It's Ellen, sunglasses, posing in front of Saints Rest Beach in Irving Nature Park, one of Canada's best shelters by the sea. He wears a blue shirt with long sleeves, which matches the bag hanging from his neck. She is smiling.
Here it is again, this time with Terry by his side, standing with a group of friends in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Sunglasses, smiling, sky-blue stripes crossing his shirt. Terry matches.
In her heart, Ellen was a listener and a teacher. He put the others in the lead. Maybe that's why his friends – some of whom had known her for decades – never knew.
"You know, we found out what his favorite color was because of this stack," said Carma Jo Kauffman, pointing to a pile of particularly blue fabric on a cold mid-January day.
He smiled, his eyes lit up through his thick-rimmed glasses, but only for a moment. The fabric is his only link to Ellen Divelbess, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in February 2018. He had fought the disease for over two years. She was 73 years old.
On that 15-degree morning, Kauffman is not alone. She and two of her friends arrived in the center of Fredericktown shortly after 8 am with a sack of cloth, which they carried inside Aunt Ruth's Attic – a unique merchandise store located on Main Street – and divided into piles.
"Don't we work like bees?" He asks Louise Dudgeon, Ellen's friend from over thirty years.
Standing sideways, a man with a big mustache is smiling.
"You're working like crazy," he smashes, with the kind of sarcasm you'd expect from Ellen Divelbiss's husband.
"I'm here to take notes."
Terry Divelbiss is more or less the superintendent of the entire operation. He is also one of the founders.
After Ellen died last winter, Terry entered Ellen's quilting room. There were "huge amounts" of quilting materials, he said – fabric, support, various cloth garments. The fabric, well organized, is available in all types of colors, models and quantities. Ellen had dedicated her life to quilting; this was what remained.
"Do you just give it away?" He remembered Terry wondering. "Well, it was too much to do."
Instead of throwing the material or bringing it to the auction, Terry had an idea: he sold the fabric at a discount and donated all the proceeds to charity that Ellen would support.
He worked with Bill and Carol Van Nostrand, the owners of Aunt Ruth's Attica, to make it happen. The Van Nostrands agreed to lend a corner of their shop to the cause, and they would keep track of all the transactions.
Terry called Ellen's quilting friends and they were thrilled with the idea. They wanted to help.
At the end of October, they pulled the first truck loaded with fabric. They ordered it for style and purpose on a series of metal shelves at the north end of the store. They called it "Ellen's Quilting Corner" and put a picture of their best friend on a print that explained his story.
The word came out quickly.
In the first two months, Bill Van Nostrand saw visitors from Loudonville, Bucyrus, Mansfield and Cleveland. Stories like this have spread like oil in the dense quilting community, says Terry; Kauffman comes from the Danville area and is part of the Loudonville quilting corporation, while Jeanne Davis, the third member (and resident of Fredericktown) belongs to the Mount Vernon corporation. They shared the idea with their friends, which they passed on.
When Christmas arrived, it seems that the entire north central Ohio knew of the small Fredericktown store with great history.
"It's a great way to share what (Ellen) started," Dudgeon said, "and we're seeing it in so many directions."
In the autumn of 2017, a few months before Ellen passed, she was interviewed behind closed doors by a representative of the Fredericktown United Methodist Church.
He sat next to Terry in an electric wheelchair, since the SLA had taken its ability to walk at that point. The disease is paralyzing; over time, it wears out nerve cells and prevents the body from performing basic motor functions, such as walking or swallowing.
ALS affects the body, but does not affect the mind. In the video, Ellen's words seem to drag her thoughts behind her. But she smiles, and laughs, and jokes at her own expense. Remember the night she was born, during a blizzard in Oberlin, Ohio.
"They had to take my mother on the main road on a sled to take her to the hospital," he said, laughing next to Terry. "I know this makes me look really old, but nothing moved."
Ellen grew up on a dairy farm in Lorain County. After earning a bachelor's degree in education at Ashland University, then attending the University of North Colorado and Ohio State University for his master's degree, he had a choice: to go to a school district in a larger city where his position he was uncertain, or going to Fredericktown, where he knew he would have a place as a first-rate teacher.
"Although it was less money, Fredericktown was very similar to the community I grew up in," Ellen recalled in the UMC video, posted on YouTube with the title "ALS Testimony with Ellen Divelbiss".
"I felt more comfortable here than in a city. The two were bigger cities and I'm not a city girl."
Six years later, Ellen had a student in her class named Randy. His mother was a friend of the mother of a young engineer, who had just moved home after college in Indiana. He was an intelligent, dark-haired man with the ambition of an entrepreneur. They stare at Ellen on a blind date.
13 weeks later, Terry and Ellen Divelbiss were married.
Terry started Divelbiss Corporation, which designs and manufactures electronic controls, a year after the wedding. Ellen taught for the first and second classes in Fredericktown for 11 years. He stopped teaching when the children arrived; she and Terry had three boys, Don (43), David (40) and Daniel (37).
Over the years, Ellen's passion for quilting grew. He started several quilting groups in Fredericktown, including Prayers and Squares, which he still meets at the United Methodist Church in Fredericktown. The group makes quilts for the sick and the closed, and also for baptisms. Ellen made sure it was open to everyone; invited women from other churches and communities to join the mission.
He then started another group, which bears a long and ironic name: "The Quilters on the Monday night of the United Methodist Church of Fredericktown meeting at the Fredericktown Presbyterian church on Tuesday night". The group changed its name with humor when it moved to welcome a woman from Columbus for weekly meetings.
The way his friends describe him, Ellen's quilting sessions were a sight to behold. She was the teacher and her friends were her pupils, needle and thread in her hand, eager to learn. Ellen started sewing when she was little, and since then she has sewn hundreds of quilts. He was more than willing to pass on his experience.
"Ellen, thanks to her teaching background, made it easy for us to learn," Dudgeon said. "The first quilt we made came with models of graph paper for each of us. And the instructions were clearly arranged – how to cut, what to cut, how to put it together – and we learned so much."
Dudgeon met Ellen at the Fredericktown United Methodist Church in the 80s; both their children were young and they co-taught the fifth and sixth classes of Sunday school together. Dudgeon's mother had always wanted to teach her to make the quilt, but Louise had never had time because of agricultural obligations and the increasing distance between them (her parents moved to Missouri). After Louise's mother died, Ellen taught her how to make a quilt by hand.
Four years ago, Dudgeon dragged Kauffman into Ellen's sewing circle. Only a year passed before Ellen was diagnosed with ALS, but the two quickly became friends. Kauffman has held the quilt for 40 years, he said, but Ellen has always taught her something new in every session.
"She was a great teacher. I mean, she was just a great teacher," recalls Kauffman. "He could teach you something … you thought you knew everything and there was always something."
When Ellen fell ill, Kauffman swung from her home to take her to quilting sessions. The first thing to do was his balance; then his feet began to drag and his fingers went numb. He began to have pain in his legs and fell several times. He kept tapping, but she could tell that his body was slowing down.
In November 2016, Ellen and Terry went on a cruise. Despite her deteriorating condition – which at that point was still a bit of a mystery – Ellen was determined to go. They packed his walker and made the trip work.
He was there, on that boat, when everything went off for Ellen. She and Terry had settled in one night to watch "The Theory of Everything", a film about the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, which described his life-long struggle with SLA. The film shows how Hawking's condition progressed, starting during his college days and during his professional career. Ellen saw what Hawking went through and thought, "This looks familiar."
She was diagnosed by a neurologist soon after.
"I think God probably led me to that movie to prepare for that diagnosis, because I wasn't really surprised," Ellen said in her video testimony. "I just thought it was probably what it was. I can't say I'm happy about it, but I was prepared."
On a sunny mid-March afternoon, Terry Divelbiss sat on a luxurious couch in Aunt Ruth's penthouse, hands clasped in front of his chest. He recently moved his wedding ring – three diamonds for their three boys – to his right hand. Glitters in the light.
It is difficult for Terry to describe how it was last year. "It's a hole," he says. Rearrange your fingers and the ring flashes again.
Terry and Ellen have been married for 45 years. They lived in Fredericktown for a lifetime together, and they were active members of the community. In addition to founding one of Fredericktown's most prosperous businesses, Terry was recently president of the Community Foundation for Mount Vernon and Knox County (now Knox County Foundation). He is a member of the Knox County Board of Directors and has maintained an active role in the United Methodist Church of Fredericktown, as well as Ellen.
When she wasn't teaching or stuffing herself, Ellen regularly volunteered for various community causes. He served as a 4-H consultant, Cub Scout Den Mother and an Odyssey of the Mind coach. He donated several award-winning quilts to local charities, clubs and art exhibitions (most praise Ellen for her "eye" in quilting, or her ability to put together wonderfully effortlessly fabrics).
The two committed themselves, but they still saved time for each other. Their bond was profound; in Ellen's video testimony, the two sit side by side and finish the sentences regularly without hesitation.
When Ellen fell ill, Terry was there at every step.
"Terry was my backbone – and almost literally a few days, when I can't sit up straight. I say" Push me up, Terry "and he'll give me a push and I'll straighten out," Ellen said in the video before bursting at to laugh. Terry shook his head – how could anyone in this condition be so funny?
It is composed …
"But I couldn't have done it without him."
Terry took Ellen to the appointments – which, in the end, were frequent – and spent most of the days helping her with basic tasks. He was determined to make his life as comfortable as possible.
When Ellen's fingers and hands began to fail, and she couldn't push the rotary cutter she used to cut the fabric, Terry bought her a machine that would cut the fabric. When his legs began to fail, Terry lifted Ellen's sewing table so that her wheelchair could fit under it.
He never gave up, and neither did he.
"He is a person who has definitely taken his vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in the heart," said Ellen. "Because I don't think anyone would register for it willingly, but it's true."
In Ellen's last months, as her battle with the SLA became more intense, she and Terry were determined to reach December 30, 2017. It was the couple's 45th wedding anniversary.
Sure enough, Ellen came through. The church held a special reception for them that night. All of Ellen's friends were invited. It was a special night, recalls Terry, and "it was probably the last big release".
On February 19, less than two months later, Ellen died at the family home.
For most of Ellen's 41-minute testimony, she was asked about her illness – when she was diagnosed with her, how she lived there, what she wanted people to know about it. But for most of the video, Ellen is laughing.
The conversation is carefree and the humor is self-deprecating; is glad that her nephew is a Star Wars fan, because the SLA has deepened her voice and now says that it sounds like Darth Vader; she "never liked diet or exercise", so this gives her an excuse for not doing it; she can no longer sing, which is good news for anyone who has feared that she might try at Carnegie Hall.
But at the end of the video, it's Terry's turn to talk. He talked about the sacrifices he made – they did – and the years spent together. He spoke of trust, community and loyalty. He talked about what it was like to spend 45 years with his best friend.
"She's just a big woman," he said. "The love of my life."
For the first time in her 41-minute testimony, Ellen started crying.
When Terry, Louise, Carma Jo and Jeanne founded Ellen's Corner, their goal was to sell 1,000 pieces of fabric. It was a bit arbitrary, confesses Terry – it was simply something to shoot.
Six months later, that target may have already been destroyed.
About $ 6,000 was collected (and the fabric is sold at one third of the market value, Terry estimates). The donations were donated to the SLA search, to the TouchPointe and to the FUMC prayer and team club.
The group continues to transport fabric to the store each week; with the sum that Ellen had collected over the years, Terry estimates that the supply will last until the end of the year.
"I had no idea where we would be," Terry said of his expectations regarding the commitment. "I didn't know where we could end up, but I think it's all right."
While the story of Ellen's Corner spread far and wide, Terry's desires were more aware of the cause. The mission is twofold, says Terry: raising money for worthy causes is important, but so is spreading the sense of community and love that Ellen has cultivated, a piece of cloth at a time.
"The idea is that we know that this fabric will go to the quilt and that it will end up with quilts," said Terry. "So Ellen is going to touch countless quilts out there with the fabric she selected."
One of the walls of Ellen's Corner is full of images. Near the top, a sign says: "The beginning of Ellen's 1000-Quilt Legacy." Terry asked everyone who buys a piece of fabric from the store to send a photo of the finished product so that it can be hung on the wall.
There are photos of all kinds of handmade creations on the wall, held by people of all ages. C & # 39; is a group of fifth and sixth students from Newcomerstown who used the waste from Ellen's collection to make Christmas stockings in December. Using that material, the caption says, those girls have learned to sew.
"His love went into each of those quilts," said Terry, pointing to the wall of photos. "And I think (Ellen's friends) feel the same way about it."
Likewise, quilting brought Ellen's friends together, keeping them strong.
During Ellen's last days, when everything had changed due to illness, the quilting remained. When Ellen could no longer walk, the club moved the meetings to her home. In the last few months, Ellen has lost the ability to sew completely, but the group has arrived anyway.
Ellen continued to teach: she knew where each piece of fabric was in her quilting maze and directed her friends to certain pieces and started them on a drawing.
"She liked it so much," said Terry. "He wanted to keep doing it as long as he could."
Now, quilting organizations have started living live.
Prayers and Squares still meets regularly and the group intends to finish some of the projects that Ellen had begun. Louise, Carma Jo and Jeanne approached Ellen's Corner and plan to continue meeting once a week after all the inventory has been sold.
Terry misses Ellen, but wears his pain with dignity. He plans to become more involved with the SLA association, possibly by meeting the local group of survivors or participating in walks in the future.
At the age of 71 he is still the president of Divelbiss Corporation, and says the work has helped keep him on track. He also took over the portion of the renovation locker that occurs in the United Methodist Church of Fredericktown. He likes to work with his hands, he says, and invites the other members of the congregation to do the same.
Terry and Ellen's three children helped decide where Ellen's donations to the Corner will go. Two of the sons, Don and Dave, work in their father's company. Terry's and Ellen's nephew, John, is a student at local Fredericktown schools. She is working on a project in an artistic class at this time that involves small pieces of fabric, which have been donated by a group of local women. They don't see the time to see what it creates.
Terry believes that Ellen's Corner helped in the grieving process. He was able to make use of Ellen's fabric, and he learned a lot about his wife along the way – everyone who stops has a story.
"She was always willing to help everyone, and this started showing up with various people she was in contact with (with)," he said with a smile.
Through the loss, Fredericktown became stronger. The village now follows Ellen's guidance. In the face of ruthless adversity, she has not wavered.
"I mean, you have a choice," he said in his testimony. "You really have a choice about how you live your life. And that's what I intend to do, as long as I can, it's to live my life. And it comes out of the attitude."
Ellen said that everything was okay before she was diagnosed. She and Terry had paid the house and got their children at school. Terry had saved a considerable amount of vacation time over the years, and this was their chance to travel, "while we still had our intelligence and health." But when the diagnosis came, everything changed.
"You probably heard him say that life is what happens when you are making other plans," said Ellen, referring to FUMC pastor Richard Hasley. "We had other plans."
Nevertheless, Ellen remained positive. He said his spirituality helped guide her through difficult times.
"I'm not afraid of dying, but I'm not particularly excited about what's going on between now and that point," said Ellen. "I know that things will become more and more difficult and difficult to (Terry) to watch and endure. Being trapped in your body doesn't seem like a very happy way to spend the day.
"But I know that God loves me, and walks beside me and opens the way. And it will be better. It will have to get worse before it gets better, but it's going better. And I'm grateful for that."
On that cold morning in mid-January, Dudgeon tried to keep him together. He remembered Ellen's last days and wept. Big tears fell on the water-green sweater.
The wound was still fresh – 11 months is too little time to heal – and Dudgeon lost that laugh, that smile, that warmth.
She raised her head.
Ellen survives – in every fragment of fabric, in every single model, in every duvet made from the collection of her life. His love is everywhere.
"One thing you learn from Ellen," said Dudgeon, a smile forming on his face, "you don't throw anything away."
How to participate: Ellen's Corner is open during the opening hours of Attica Ruth's Attic office, from 11:00 to 17:00, from Wednesday to Saturday. The store is located at 167 North Main Street in Fredericktown, bordering the grain mill. The fabric is sold at one third of the market value, and all proceeds go to charity.