Kaleel's Story

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Kaleel (K.) Mose Ellis, Jr., local businessman, of Terre Haute, Indiana, went to heaven on the 13th day of April, 2017 in the Indiana University Medical Center after battling prostate cancer for over a decade. He passed away peacefully just as he lived - surrounded by his Priest and 25 family members on Holy Thursday, as they sang Orthodox Hymns. Just before he passed, he opened his eyes and mouthed the songs with them. He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on January 26th, 1931 to Kaleel Mose Ellis, Sr. & Rose Corey Ellis. As a baby, on August 15, 1932, K. was baptized and became an orphan on the same day. His Mother, driven by her Uncle Louis Haag from Lebanon, took the toddler to be baptized at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, on the occasion of the Feast Day for Assumption of the Virgin Mary. During the return trip, his mother, aware that a horrible car crash was imminent, tossed the baby from the window as he landed in a nearby ditch. Tragically, Mrs. Ellis was killed. His Mother's death began a series of home shuffling between various family and others in the Terre Haute Syrian community for several years but the majority of the time he lived with his maternal Grandparents, Alex Corey, Sr. and Jamiely Corey. While there, he was primarily cared for by his Aunt Helen Corey Tom and worked with his Grandfather in the family grocery store on South 2nd Street.
K. was a proud Wiley Red Streak, and upon graduation in 1950, he immediately enlisted in the United States Army. The Army would provide the most stable home life he had had. While in the Army, the Private was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. where he was a courier between President Harry S. Truman and the Pentagon. He was on-duty and present during the assassination attempt of President Truman in 1950 at The Blair House. After being honorably discharged, K. came home to Terre Haute. He had a keen eye for new trends and with Cosmetology booming, he obtained his license and opened several shops in the Terre Haute area known as "Kaleel's". Kay was known for working multiple jobs at the same time. He often sold shoes at various downtown department stores, tended bar at the Saratoga, and was persuaded to take his hair styling talents to Indianapolis to style hair at the then famous Blocks Department Store.
It was about this time that he met the love of his life and on April 28th, 1957, he married his wife of nearly 60 years, Mary Helen Farah Ellis, at the then newly consecrated St. George Orthodox Church on South 4th Street. They were the first couple to be married there. The couple has remained members ever since. Plans were underway for their 60th Anniversary celebration. After a few years in the hair industry, Mary Helen took over the family business as he pursued other interests in Real Estate and Automobile Sales. During their marriage, K. sold Oldsmobiles for Raines-O'Daniels and then Dodge automobiles for John Hockett's Dodge. In 1969, Kay and John became partners and formed Vigo Dodge, Inc. ultimately moving the dealership to its current location across from the Vigo County Fairgrounds. "K. Ellis .... The Working Man's Friend" was known throughout the Wabash Valley. Subsequent to Vigo Dodge, K. operated Honey Creek Motors on South U.S. Highway 41 along with his son, John. After retirement from the automobile business, he began volunteering at his sons' various businesses including Car Stop, Ellis Law, and in his most recently, daily at Top Guns. He was certainly the "Top Salesman" at Top Guns and was very active in Top Gun's expansion across South U.S. Hwy 41 from Ellis Plaza to Top Guns' Plaza which had been scheduled to open this week. The family was hoping that K. would cut the ribbon.
In addition to being survived by his Wife, Mary Helen, he is also survived by their five Sons: James Kaleel Ellis; John Joseph Ellis and his wife, Jaimie Kerr Ellis; Michael Thomas Ellis; Kaleel Mose Ellis III and his wife, Christine Pence Ellis; & Steven Anthony Ellis and his wife, Christy Malone Ellis; two Daughters-In-Law: Telena Quillen Ellis & Pamela Thieke Ellis; 12 Grandchildren: Kyle Joseph Ellis, Grant Jonathan Ellis, Cache' Lauren Rose Ellis, Kalea Christine Ellis, Christian Michael Uriah Ellis, Karah Christine Ellis, Cole Michael Scott, Christopher Kaleel Ellis, Jonathan James Ellis, Parker James Ellis, Khloe Christine Ellis, & Cameron Kaleel Ellis. Other survivors include his Brother, Robert E. Ellis; Sisters-In-Law: Shirley Farah Nasser, Rosemarie Farah Tanoos, & Julie Farah Lake. Also surviving is his Uncle, Louis "Deacon Elias" Corey and his wife, Denise Deacon Corey; numerous Cousins including Michael H. Tom and his wife, Mary Jo Shahadey Tom; Nieces and Nephews: Jeffrey Thomas Nasser, Gregory James Nasser (Renee), Sheri Nasser Seat (Tony), Angela Tanoos Riggers (David), Jennifer Tanoos-Turner (Jeremiah), Jason Robert Lake, & Courtney Farah Lake; as well as his God-Daughter, Gina Tom White (Preston).
K. was preceded in death by his Parents, his Grandparents, his Sisters, Frieda Ellis Azar & Barbara Kay Ellis, several Aunts & Uncles including Helen and Halline Tom, and Brothers-in-law, George T. Nasser, Richard (Dicky) Tanoos, & Steven R. Lake.
K. lived each day putting his faith, his family, and his friends before all else. It would be difficult to find anyone who didn't have love and respect for "Big K." as he would become known after the birth of Kaleel III. He loved living next door to one son and within a block of two others, down the street from numerous cousins, and even during his health problems would manage to have lunch and/or dinner with his children and grandchildren on a daily basis. The Ellis Family could easily be described as the characters in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with K. being the Patriarch. K. was the first generation of Syrian immigrants and second generation of Lebanese immigrants, and he never lost those traditions, especially that of a close family, and made certain he passed those traditions on to his children. He rarely went straight home of an evening, choosing to make stops at each of his sons' homes to see the grandchildren, if only for a few minutes or staying for dinner. Everyone had a welcoming relationship with Papa (and Grandma) and most often the advance notice of their arrival was when his car pulled into the driveway and they walked into the back door. The family would not have wanted it any other way. Family was very important to him and he was very important to his family. Recently, his sons were instrumental in having ISU's new student housing in the 500 block of Wabash Avenue named ELLIS PLACE in his honor to show their respect and love for him. Over the years, he taught his sons many of his talents especially in the business world, but the most valuable lessons he taught them was how to be a great Dad a caring husband, and a giving member of his church. Most importantly to K. was his church. He was a lifelong member of The St. George Orthodox Church in Terre Haute where he has been involved in every aspect and organization in the church including Past President of the Board of Trustees, Past President of the former St. George Men's Club, current member of the St. George Choir, and fan of the St. George Softball team. He loved to cook - something he also passed on to most of his sons - and in recent years, he, along with his wife and sons, helped prepare the Middle Eastern delicacies for the annual St. George Festival. He loved his church and everything about it. He took pride in his command of the Bible and noted in the binder each time he had completed the Book cover to cover, which was several.
The family wishes to thank the dedicated professionals at Providence Medical, particularly K's cousin, oncologist Dr. Melham Jabbour who has been a Godsend over the past several months, as well as cardiologists and close family friends, Dr. George Bittar & Dr. Nawar Mercho. In addition, we thank Dr. Thomas Schmitz at the Siebenmorgan Cancer Center and Dr. Costa Albany at IU for their dedication. K. was certainly more than a patient to these fine physicians and their care was very much appreciated.
Services will be at the St. George Orthodox Church 1900 South 4th Street, Terre Haute, Indiana on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. Visitation will be on Monday, April 17th, 2017, from 4:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. with a Trisagian Prayer at 7:00 p.m. Visitation will also be from 9:00 a.m. until the Service on Tuesday. All visitation will be at St. George and current and former Priests will officiate. Services will be conducted by the Reverend Paul Fuller, the Very Reverend George M. Rados, the Very Reverend Nabil Hanna, the Reverend Paul Matar, K's Uncle, the Rev. Dn. Elias Corey, and K's cousin, Sub-Deacon Chuckie Shahadey. Burial will be at Highland Lawn. His five sons will serve as Pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions be given to the K. Ellis Memorial Fund c/o Ellis Law, 417 Wabash Avenue, Terre Haute, Indiana 47807. The family plans to use all funds toward an item for St. George to memorialize "Big K." A special thanks to our friend Gary Greiner at Greiner Funeral Home for assisting with arrangements.
Published on April 16, 2017
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