Ellen Kathleen Bailey Parker, loving wife, superlative mom, and doting nana to two grandchildren she adored–and a bulldog–peacefully passed from our presence November 3, 2023, from natural causes. She was 71. As anyone who knew her might expect, her last words were, “I love you.”
Ellen was born to Willis Woodrow Bailey and Joan Marie Nichols Bailey on August 15, 1952, in Huntington Park, California. She promptly fell in love with the beach and the sea, a love that lasted her entire life: her home reminded her of a beach house, the family regularly vacationed at the beach, and she planted her garden with flowers from her favorite beach town.
Her natural artistic eye inspired her studies. She studied art at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, then continued her studies at Brigham Young University and, finally, the University of Utah. At each stage, she formed friendships that lasted her lifetime, leaving her with an intimate group of friends who stayed in touch with her and lifted her spirit during difficult times. At the University of Utah, Ellen met and married her eternal companion and sweetheart, Barton G. Parker, in the Salt Lake Temple, and faithfully served in many callings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She considered raising their two children, Rachel and Lance, to be one of her life’s greatest gifts.
Ellen was a gifted artist and a connoisseur of all things beautiful–food, art, music, literature, and destinations. This love of beauty overflowed into every element of her life: she created family traditions for every holiday and birthday and beloved recipes for special and ordinary occasions alike. Her Thanksgiving stuffing and chocolate cake are things of legend, and deserve to be.
Sometimes, her passion for beauty got the better of her. For Christmas, she once gifted both her daughter and son “charming” French paper doll sets, framed and equipped for prominent display in their bedrooms. Their lack of enthusiasm became a favorite source of good-natured ribbing. They never let her live it down. In these moments her laugh was infectious. What started as a chuckle would swell into a soft piercing laugh that, along with a well-timed slap on the knee, ensured that every other person in the room laughed along with her. It was impossible not to.
There were also challenges. In her late 30s, Ellen’s physical health, which had been delicate for much of her life, faltered. Over the next three decades, she struggled daily with physical pain and all its attendant consequences. Very few outside her immediate family ever knew of or fully understood her physical battles, or how gracefully and determinedly she waged them. She referred to this as her “journey,” and her own experience gave her great compassion for each person’s unique life journey. In this, she fully embodied that heroic heart described by Tennyson, “made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.” We know no one stronger.
In her final week, Ellen knew that her time with her family was ending. So she relished some of her favorite treats: asiago cheese bagels from a favorite local eatery and dark Bordeaux chocolates (another of her passions). Vegetables were unwelcomed at the feast. And she shared a line from a favorite poem:
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).” We do, too.
Ellen was preceded in death by her father, mother, and brother, Robert Bailey. She is survived by her husband, Barton; her sister Michele Tippin; her daughter Rachel (Brent) and granddaughters Bella and Cate; and her son Lance (Dulce). And the bulldog. By her request, services will be limited to a private graveside service for her immediate family on Friday, November 17th. Interment Memorial Holladay Cemetery.