For forty-six years Ella enjoyed her life as a 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 a book to help other widows in their journey from grief to joy began to germinate during a trip to Nantucket in August 2013. Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows—inspired by the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians—was published by 1845 Books, an imprint of the Baylor University Press, in September 2018.
Born in New Orleans in 1941, Ella grew up in Texarkana, Arkansas, where she was a member of Beech Street Baptist Church and attended local public schools. With the encouragement of her English/journalism teacher and the local newspaper editor, she enrolled at Baylor University in 1959, where she served as editor of The Baylor Lariat and planned 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 longtime member of First Baptist Church, she held leadership positions there and served on committees and boards of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She was a member of the Baylor Board of Regents and a director of the Baylor Alumni. Known as a gourmet cook, she served as coeditor 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 later with their spouses and her four grandchildren. Her first great-granddaughter was born March 23, 2019.
While still calling Corpus Christi home, Ella has a condo in Dallas and a summer home on Nantucket. Since Reclaiming Joy was published, she has spoken to numerous groups across Texas and has been reviewed and interviewed both in print media and on talk-radio shows nationwide. In June she will be a featured author at the Nantucket Book Festival.