Verena Griffin Ellis
Verena Griffin Ellis
  • August 10, 1924 - August 1, 2017
  • Oklahoma

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Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."
- Fred Rogers, television personality
Rena Griffin Ellis of Oklahoma City passed away on August 1, 2017; she was 92. Born in Alabama, she moved to Oklahoma with her husband Richard in the late 1940s. While raising her three children she began volunteering in the Diagnostic/Therapeutic Nursery, a laboratory school for the Child Psychiatry Department of the O.U. Health Sciences working with troubled preschoolers. This was the beginning of an enthusiasm for helping children that would last the rest of her life.
She never missed an opportunity to learn, attending trainings and auditing college classes in a variety of subjects but most often in those subjects that would help her to help children. Her bookcase and, in fact, her whole house was stacked with books, again, on a variety of subjects but very often on children and families.
She received numerous awards from the various organizations she worked for throughout her almost 50 years of volunteering. Among others, she received the Oklahoma County CASA Volunteer of the Year, the Jimmy Taylor Volunteer of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Count Juvenile Bureau Detention Center, the Friend of Children Award and the Friend of Children lifetime achievement award presented by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and the Clyde Benn Service to Youth Award from the Youth Leadership Exchange of Oklahoma City. In 2000 the Rena Ellis Oklahoma County CASA Lifetime Achievement Award was established in her name and presented to her. Each year it honors a volunteer with a minimum of 7 years advocacy with CASA and 15 years of service to children in related areas. She served on the Governor's Task Force on Children in Custody, the United Methodist Child Share Foster Care Committee and was, herself, a foster parent. In 2001 she was recognized by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate for her years of service. When not working as a full-time volunteer Rena also enjoyed gardening, playing the guitar and was active in the Village United Methodist Church.
She is survived by her three children Richard R. Ellis, Jr. of Oklahoma City, Sue D. Ellis of Dallas and Carolyn Ellis Rice of Boulder, Colorado. Also by her three grandchildren, two sons-in-law and three great- grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband Richard and one great grandchild. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CASA of Oklahoma County or Village United Methodist Church. A reception celebrating her life will be held September 23 at 3:00pm at Hahn Cook/Street and Draper at 6600 Broadway Extension in Oklahoma City.