or 46 years Ella enjoyed her life as wife, mother and volunteer. All that changed when her husband died in 2009 after a lengthy illness. Ella became the completely unqualified president of Prichard Oil Company. While learning the business and settling the estate in the midst of the Great Recession, she poured out her grief and anxiety on Twitter and Facebook. Readers responded, “Keep writing.” The idea for her forthcoming book, Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows, started to germinate during a trip to Nantucket in August 2013; and writing began in May 2014. She submitted her completed manuscript to the Baylor University Press in summer 2017 and anticipates publication in fall 2018.
Born in New Orleans in 1941, Ella grew up in Texarkana, Arkansas. Shy and studious, she fell in love with words on paper as a young child. Books were her best friends; the nearby public library, her favorite destination. By the time she was twelve, after she had read everything in the children’s section, she moved on to adult books. Without any formal training in journalism, she regularly produced little mimeographed “newspapers” for the groups she belonged to. She served as editor of her high school newspaper; and with the encouragement of her English/journalism teacher and the local newspaper editor, she enrolled at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, in 1959 with plans to pursue a newspaper career. Those plans were abandoned when she met Lev while working as a summer intern reporter at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in 1962. They married five months later.
After her graduation from Baylor in 1963, Ella found myriad ways to share her talent through church and community service: Writing Sunday School curriculum for the Southern Baptist Convention Sunday School Board (now LifeWay), writing and editing for local nonprofits, and producing promotional materials for nonprofit capital campaigns. A gourmet cook, she served as co-editor of Fiesta: Favorite Recipes of South Texas, a top-selling cookbook published by the Junior League of Corpus Christi. At the same time, she stayed actively involved in the lives of her two children, Lev IV and Peggy; and after their marriages, with their spouses and her four grandchildren.
Her life changed dramatically after Lev’s death, and she describes her experience as a widow with raw honesty in Reclaiming Joy.