Ellyn Otterson

06/11/1940 - 01/12/2020

Obituary For Ellyn Otterson

November 6, 1940 – December 1, 2020
80 Years

Our hearts ache deeply at the loss of Ellyn Otterson, beloved mother, sister, aunt and wonderful friend of so many who knew her. She slipped peacefully away in her sleep the afternoon of December 1, 2020 at the QEII hospital in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

Born in Blair, Wisconsin, Ellyn was raised with older brothers Ort and Hank and older sisters Sharon and Dottie. Ellyn grew up in Wisconsin and at an early age seemed destined to have a life in music. She took to the piano at an early age and never stopped her passion for music. After receiving a Bachelor of Music at the University of Wisconsin and studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Ellyn found her way north to Lethbridge, Alberta. There she excelled at the highest level by engaging in the musical theatre scene at the Yates Theatre. In the early years, she met her future husband Dick Mells and together they produced wonderful works of musical theatre from the 60’s to the late 70’s. Ellyn's youthful beauty and grace was recognized while in Wisconsin as she received Miss Madison First Runner-up and Miss Congeniality in 1961.

Ellyn and Dick parted ways and she settled back to Colorado for a couple of years before heading to Fort McMurray, AB to teach in the elementary schools and music which she loved so deeply. After losing her daughter Sally tragically in 1983, Ellyn eventually settled in the rural Peace Country area where she would travel on the road to different schools to teach kids. This love of teaching grew fonder and she ended up teaching privately out of her little, cozy, loving house for many decades in Grande Prairie. Countless young students were taught by Ellyn in her home – music, voice, musical theatre and opera. So many of these young people were so deeply loved and changed in a positive way from the unconditional love and commitment from her teaching. The highest levels of achievement came from Ellyn’s instruction as countless awards and top achievements in voice and musical theatre were awarded locally and provincially.

Ellyn founded the GPRC conservatory choir, she has had students leave Grande Prairie and find success at the top level in music and opera in Canada and the USA. Ellyn grew a massive, dedicated following and this produced countless inspired, loved students who still remember the wonderful years spent with her. Her teaching was at the pinnacle – the highest level, this was always the only result she expected and was achieved. She did this gracefully, with mutual respect and the confidence she instilled in these students made her so unique. When teaching, the kids loved the cats as Ellyn was known as having the most loving and affectionate cats, she cared so very deeply for them.

Ellyn will be forever in the hearts of her sons Rory and Warrick - who Ellyn raised in Lethbridge for several years. Also survived by her sister Sharon O’Keefe and nephews and nieces in the United States.

She was pre-deceased by her daughter Sally Mells, ex-husband Dick Mells of New Zealand, her parents Oscar and Stella Otterson of Wisconsin, her sister Dottie Krauser of Durango, Colorado, and her brothers Hank and Ort of Wisconsin.

There will be a private funeral service for Ellyn Otterson held on Sunday December 13th, 2020 at 1pm by invitation. For those unable to attend, her service will be livestreamed at the link at the bottom of her obituary here. By RSVP, you are also invited to Ellyn’s visitation on Saturday December 12th, 2020 from 2pm-4pm. Due to COVID restrictions, please call Bear Creek Funeral Home to schedule a time between 2-4pm for visitation.

The family of Ellyn Otterson extend their appreciation to the family and friends who have offered their support, love, flowers and donations during this time.

“Words cannot describe such sadness to lose such an immensely loving, kind, forever young soul as my mom.” – Rory Mells

Care entrusted to Bear Creek Funeral Home 780-830-7742

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I went through grade school and high school with Ellyn. We used to eat lunch together in her Moms home in Monona Village on Shore Acres Rd. We kept in contact through messenger after her move to Canada. I did not know she was in poor health. Prayers go out for her sons and family. RIP Ellyn, I will miss you. 🙏❤️ - Darlene Olson
The Grande Prairie and District Rotary Music Festival extend condolences to Ellyn's family, friends and students. Ellyn was a passionate supporter of the yearly festival and her student entrants were always well prepared and gave an enthusiastic performance. Their biggest supporter was Ellyn as she gave them a big smile and a nod of encouragement from the piano. Her legacy will be the love and appreciation of various forms of music and musical arts that she instilled in so many students over the years. The musical seeds she has planted will flourish in future generations.
- Dennis Fedeyko
Ellyn was truly a kindred spirit. I found my calling to go into theatre much later in life. I had never taken a voice lesson or any other performance classes until Ellyn. She took me in with open arms. I felt safe with her and loved our chats (she also loved my naughty dog and found his obnoxious barking and sassy attitude delightful). She prepared me for my Grant MacEwan University Theatre Arts audition, choosing an old song that she knew no one else would be singing ("Repent" from 'On The 20th Century'). She was an incredible resource and an incredible musician. We had a blast putting the song together. I felt shy to sing a more operatic song but Ellyn said, "don't worry about singing perfectly. It's about the performance. It's ALWAYS about acting first." Ellyn, you taught me how to pursue my dreams and that it was never to late to do so. You taught me to know and appreciate my worth and value and to hone my skills. You reminded me to take delight in a meowing cat or a chatty dog. You loved deeply. You gave much. You made a difference in so many lives. I will miss our chats. I will miss your kind words and your ready encouragement. I will miss you, my friend. Thank you for believing in me and for planting that seed. My success is your success. You'll always be my mentor. Love, Rebecca (Becky) Merkley

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a funeral?

A funeral is a ceremony for a deceased person prior to burial or cremation. A funeral gives the opportunity for family and friends of the deceased to gather and mourn the passing of their loved one, to share cherished memories and celebrate their life. A funeral is a vital first step to help the bereaved heal after the loss of someone special.

What type of service should I have?

If no pre-arrangements have been made, the type of service is entirely up to you.  Services are usually held at a funeral home, community hall, or a place of worship. There is a wealth of different services, ranging from a traditional religious or military service to something a little more non-traditional. Our funeral directors are more than happy to work with you to figure out what would be the most appropriate.

Who are Funeral Directors and what do they do?

Funeral directors are in charge of all the logistics following a death. They complete all the necessary paperwork, make arrangements for the transportation of the body, and put into action the choices made by the family in regards to the funeral service and the final resting place of the body. Beyond the logistics, funeral directors are there to provide moral support and guidance for someone coping with death.

What if a death occurs away from my home town?

We are here to help, we can arrange to have your loved one transported home from anywhere in the world. We will assume responsibility and make the proper arrangements to have them returned to the community. We use the same organization that brings our military home when needed.

What is embalming and what purpose does it serve?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body; it also slows down the decomposition process and enhances the appearance of the body damaged by traumatic death or illness. Embalming gives time to the family of the deceased to arrange a service, and allows the family the option of having an open-casket viewing.

What do I do if I am not satisfied with the way a funeral was handled?

Funeral homes and funeral professionals in Alberta are licensed by the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board. If you are unhappy with the way a funeral was handled or the actions of a funeral home in Alberta, you may speak with or proceed with a complaint process to seek resolution of the matter. More information is found at  or by phone at (780) 452-6130 

How much does a funeral cost?

The cost of the funeral varies depending on the wishes you have. The average cost of a funeral is between $5,000-$7,000, however, it varies greatly depending on the kind of service you desire. In general, cremation tends to cost less than burial. The costs include professional services including transportation, embalming and other preparations, the use of a facility for the ceremony, and the purchase of a casket or urn.

Can I personalize a funeral?

Of course you can, in fact, more and more people are opting for a more non-traditional personalized service. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate somebody’s life. There are many unique ways to celebrate life, let the funeral director know exactly what your desires are and they will honour your wishes.

Do we need to have an obituary notice and what is included in one?

It is highly recommended to have an obituary notice that’s either placed in a local newspaper or placed online. An obituary lets the public know that a death has occurred, and gives them information about the service. Obituaries generally include the deceased’s full name, age, city, and date of birth and the city they were living in when they died. It also includes the name of the deceased’s spouse, along with the names of anyone else significant in their lives, such as parents, children or grandchildren. Space may be limited in a newspaper obituary, but you may include a little blurb on the life and legacy of the deceased. An online obituary or memorial website offers you the chance to add a lot more about the deceased.

What happens if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?

We are here to help, funeral directors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

Do I need to have an embalming

No, embalming is often an unnecessary expense, even if a viewing is desired. There are times when we would recommend embalming, especially if there is an extended gap between death and burial or cremation.

Why are funerals so expensive?

Funerals are labor intensive and require a lot of work from a lot of people. The cost of a funeral goes beyond merchandise such as caskets, it includes the services of a funeral director in making the necessary arrangements, filling out forms, and dealing with all the other people involved in the death (doctors, lawyers, insurance companies). Funeral directors work an average of 40 hours per funeral. The cost of operating a funeral home is factored into the cost as well. Funeral homes are a 24 hour operation, with extensive facilities that need to be maintained and secured.

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