(PAOLI) - The town of Paoli and all of Orange County lost an icon Tuesday afternoon.
Paoli News-Republican Sports Editor Dennis Ellis, who has poured everything into the community for more than 20 years, passed away.
The Paoli News-Republican reports, Ellis grew up in Sweetser in northern Indiana, but he found a home in Orange County, where he raised his two sons, Dylan and Casey, and where he became a fixture throughout town, especially at the schools and sporting events.
After graduating from DePauw University, Ellis would move to Paoli and ended up at Orange County Publishing, where he would work for 19 years. During that time he was a sports reporter, sports editor and editor of the newspaper. Photographs he took and stories he wrote would end up in many scrapbooks that parents have created for their children so they can be treasured forever."
"Each and every time Dennis had written an article, you could read and feel his personal touch, his connection to individuals as well as the school and the community. He will be missed a great deal," said Casey Brewster, principal of Paoli Junior-Senior High School. Brewster said it was like Ellis was a part of his family because his writings chronicled the successes of his children as his writings did for many kids.
Paoli Boys Varsity Head Coach Dusty Cole said he had articles written by Ellis from when he was a student athlete and now as a coach. Cole said Ellis had a great impact on him as a student and even as a coach.
"He was great to PHS athletics," said Cole.
Cole remembered Ellis' command of the language and knew that even if things were hard to express, Ellis was there to capture it and put it into words.
"He was a special person, a great writer," said Cole. "It was always great to read his articles."
Paoli school board member Bill McDonald pointed out that Ellis was a great asset to the school and said Ellis always made sure that parents knew what was happening with their kids and that they got the information they needed. McDonald suggested Ellis did not focus on the big sports only but made sure every sport was highlighted. He would follow the teams everywhere. "He would brighten the kids' days with what he wrote," McDonald said.
Nancy Wright, now of the Orleans Progress Examiner, worked with Ellis for a dozen years or more. She said she'll always remember what a talented writer he was.
"Dennis was one of the best sports writers I have ever known," Wright said.
Amy Drake, a friend of Ellis', agrees he was amazing at his job, but she is quick to point out that he was not a "stereotypical sports guy."
Ellis attended plays and would sometimes shoot off an impromptu e-mail haiku poem to his friends. Drake talked about how Ellis' father always placed a high value on being a good guy and being a good dad. She said Ellis lived by that same code.
"Being a good dad was the most important thing in his life," Drake said.
Mike Harkness remembers coaching Little League baseball with Ellis and serving on the Little League board together. "His No. 1 thing was for the kids to have fun," said Harkness.
McDonald saw Ellis both in his professional capacity and at his home. Ellis was McDonald's neighbor and rented his home off of McDonald's dad. McDonald would enjoy seeing Ellis cooking out or making a bonfire with his sons.
"I never saw him without a smile on his face. He was always happy and jolly," said McDonald.
The Paoli Town Council remembered Ellis before its meeting just hours after his death. Mark Jones, the town council president and one of the firefighters who had tried to save Ellis' life after he collapsed, informed the audience of the tragedy, "We lost a pretty good friend to Paoli. Dennis was known for years for being with the newspaper and being at all of the ball games. We all know him and consider him a friend and we want to send our condolences to his family."
Newspaper co-worker Peggy Manship said Ellis enjoyed working with young people. She said that when he was out taking sports photographs, "He was always smiling."
Another of Ellis' friends Bill Humphrey, wrote on Ellis' Facebook wall, "Dennis led a great life. He raised two wonderful sons. In his actions, he showed his care for his family, friends and community. ... He listened well and offered caring insight. He made life count while he had the chance. Friendship with Dennis was one of life's blessings. May we long remember his goodness."
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