Ellen Blanka Gillespie Carney (nee Ernst), wife of David Carney, both long-time residents of Sag Harbor Village, passed on April 18, 2013 after a brief stay at the Southampton Hospital of Eastern Long Island and a week after her 87th birthday.
Born a blue baby on April 10, 1926 in Zurich, Switzerland, she contracted bronchi stasis in her childhood. Her father being a photographer, her inquisitive mind made her a constant companion in his dark room where chemical fumes compromised her lung function, leading in later years to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
Her cardiopulmonary health problems did not deter her inquisitive mind and zest for life. Multi-talented, she excelled in the visual and manual arts: photography, painting and coloring in the naïve tradition, handcrafts-crochet, knitting, weaving. She knitted footwear, caps and scarves for Swiss military personnel during the Second World War.
All this activity did not interfere with her educational pursuits. She graduated from the Zurich Gymnasium. The presence of U.S.A. military personnel posted in Switzerland during the war provided an opportunity to meet her future husband, Howard F. Gillespie who, breaching his Quaker anti-war principles, had enlisted in the U.S. Army to help combat Hitler’s militarism. They were married in 1948 after her exploratory visits to his home and community in the township of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
The birth, raising and education of two children, Fred (with open-heard surgery during her pregnancy) and Hester, was no obstacle to her further educational pursuits. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Cheyney State Collage and a master’s degree in education from Westchester State Collage, both in Pennsylvania, specializing in psycho-educational therapy for children afflicted with autism and other learning problems. She worked at a consultancy in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
After her divorce from Howard Gillespie in 1976, she married David Carney, a family friend since 1953, in 1978 after the death of David’s wife, Helen Elizabeth Smith Hall in 1976. She spent many years in Africa and the Caribbean, traveling with David on his various assignments by the United Nations as Economic Adviser to governments.
She authored a book, “From Here…To There,” about her Swiss childhood; collated and edited “Memories of Yesterday,” a collection of stories written by the seniors of the Bridgehampton Senior Center. She also contributed to “Westward,” a collection of portraits of Swiss American women, edited by Susann Bosshard-Kälin, a Swiss writer.
Mrs. Carney’s remains were cremated.