Monday evening, Feb. 18, 2013, Ellen Adele (Bancroft) Mulholland-Stewart, 99, treasured mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, step-mother, aunt, cousin and sister-in-law went from the emergency room at St. James Healthcare to be with her son, Tom, and family members who have been awaiting her arrival in Heaven. (Leaving hearts here broken but with the memories her 99 years to help us over her loss.)
Ellen was born December 11, 1913, in Anaconda, the only child of Ellen Cecelia Kennedy Bancroft and Dr. Carroll Rolland Bancroft. They resided in a home that Dr. Bancroft built at 521 Oak St., in Anaconda, until her father, at age 36, passed away. Ellen was only 3 years old at the time.
Ellen and her mother moved into the Montana Hotel, where her mother was a desk clerk. Her uncle was a manager at the hotel. She always said, “It wasn’t really so bad living in a one-room apartment, I could eat in the dining room and had prime rib roast beef every night.” She and her mother moved to a small home not far from the hotel once Ellen began attending St Paul’s Grade School and continued on to graduate from Anaconda High School.
Following her graduation, she pursued a nursing career at St. James School of Nursing and, for a short time after her graduation in 1935, did private-duty nursing. She married James J. Mulholland shortly after graduation and found herself a stay-at-home mom, caring for her daughter, Carol, and son, Tom until 1941. These years of taking a breather from her profession were the last she was to have for the next 44-plus years.
The Maternity Department at St. James Hospital was her first introduction to this long, truly loved, profession she had chosen. She honed her skills in this area from 1941 until 1950, assisting in the care of new moms and delivery of many of Butte’s brightest and finest. This tenure was the first of further returns to OB nursing.
Her love for this particular area of nursing earned her the frequently heard, “You were there when my children were born and assisted in their delivery” and “How comfortable and safe your presence always made me feel.” It was during this first tenure that she and Ruth Alexander, an OB nurse at Commu-nity at the time, started and taught the first prenatal classes offered in Butte hospitals. Working together, it was to become a prenatal program of care that continued for years and one in which she took great pride.
Having seen the hospital side of the maternity scene, she quickly accepted the office nurse’s position with Dr. Joseph Brancamp, OB/GYN. It was a chance to broaden her experience in the OB field by working in a most enjoyable association.
Her office experience was relatively short in the scheme of things, as her husband accepted a position as office manager of the Administration Building at Warm Springs, the site of the State Psychiatric facility. Since Ellen wasn’t one to sit and not be productive in some capacity, she found yet another challenge as she accepted an RN staff position in the Receiving Hospital. It was this experience, she says, that developed her perverse sense of humor, as she often found herself having totally unplanned dunks in the hydrotherapy tubs. She saw the experience at the Springs as further growth and accepted the duties with the utmost compassion, caring and professionalism for six years.
Following the death of her husband in 1956, she married Dr. Robert Stewart. He was offered a practice in his home state of South Dakota in the Highmore area. Ellen found herself in a new state and in the familiar, yet unfamiliar, circumstance of being office nurse to his general practice.
Following the passing of Dr. Stewart in the early 1960s, she returned to Butte and found herself once again at her first place of employment,
St. James Community. She began working in the medical/surgery arena, another new experience for her, until something opened up in her first love, OB. She remained in this capacity for 11 years until she was approached to accept the position of afternoon supervisor, a position that would see her pulled into play all the areas and knowledge she had gained through the years, to deliver the best possible patient care and assure their welfare.
The dedication she manifested to those entrusted to her care and guidance, patients , staff, and co-workers alike, remember her unshakeable trust in tight situations; that “all will turn out well … the Lord always provides.” Green Scapulars would be found secured to patients bed rails or pinned to gown or pillow, to help folks get over the bump in the road because “we all can use a little extra help at times.” All were just the extension of the faith she had, the confidence she had developed, and the many years of unfaltering, unquestioning dedication, compassion and enjoyment of working with those who shared her values and hopes for their profession. Hers was a labor of love, enthusiasm, and an unquenchable thirst for always learning and bettering herself and others or the situation at hand. She retired from this labor of love and took warm memories of accomplishments, achievements and satisfaction that she had, indeed chosen the right profession.
While considering retirement, Ellen worked with the Volunteer Program Hospital Auxiliary with the infant car seat program. It took her six more years to retire completely. Her retirement saw her turn time to the things she could fully enjoy. She was an avid book reader, as was her son, Tom. They would discuss and critique the latest bestseller or novel of choice. Crossword puzzles were always the first thing after breakfast and a cup of coffee. She and Tom would work the Sunday puzzle together … what one didn’t know, the other did. When macular degeneration altered her ability to do them, Tom would read the clue and they would solve the puzzle together.
Ellen was an “as many times as possible in a week” bridge player; belonging to two clubs and played at friends’ homes. When she was no longer able to do this, she had a friend who would call, give a rundown of the previous night’s bridge, and they would bid back and forth on the phone. The productions at the Mother Lode, stage plays or Community Concert, she was always ready to purchase tickets as soon as was available.
Her grandchildren were an absolute joy and delight to her. She rarely missed their sports events, traveling in all kinds of weather, in all directions with her son to attend them. She thoroughly enjoyed the home she and Carol shared — “so comfortable, bright and warm.” Patio sitting and meals in the summer were a treat very much enjoyed. She even took up vegetable gardening; sharing the success of the crops with friends and neighbors. She was “Mom” to many of Tom and Carol’s friends and enjoyed her family and their gatherings, as well as all the many, many friendships she developed through the years.
Ellen was preceded by her parents; two husbands; her son, Tom; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and her stepdaughter, Jan Stewart Smith and Jan’s daughter, Alison Smith Moser; as well as two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law.
She is survived by her daughter, Carol Mulholland of Butte; grandchildren, Stacey Marie Mulholland and Mike Schalk, and their children, Grace Elizabeth and Shane Michael Thomas of Anaconda; Brian Mulholland of Snoqualmie, Wash., and Laurie Russ, the mother of his daughter, Danielle Sophia; Colleen and Joe Rahn of Helena and their children, Jenna Elaine and Hunter Thomas; and Marge Burink and Becky Gulledge. She is also survived by her “adopted” daughters, Helen Varelia, Carla Quinn, and Michelle Malkovich, and “adopted” sons, Frank Moreni, Vince Matule, Larry Lakel, and Kevin Calnan; special friends, the McGeehan families and Marg and Tom Durkin, with whom she enjoyed Sunday dinners, visits, listening to professional, college and high school football and basketball games and betting; her sister-in-law, Barbara Mulholland and her family; Dan, Tom, Mary, Maureen, Patricia, Cathy, and their families; her cousins, Catherine Voyer Hatch, Marjorie (Wendell) Cole of California; and cousin Grace Robinson of Oregon.
For 99 years of living Life
The way it was meant to be,
For the warmth and Wisdom
That you shared …
oh so lovingly,
For bringing joy to
others … pristine example
To one and all,
You, we honor and admire deeply.
You will be dearly missed by us all
Special thanks to Rocky Mountain Hospice, who brought joy to her days and smile on her face and laughter, Josette, Peggy, Jennifer, Stacey (who had the hard duty), and Laurie, Linda Johnson and all who made these last months a joy for both of us.
Friends are asked to join the family after 5 p.m. Thursday in St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Parish Vigil will be recited at 7 p.m. Liturgy of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Ann’s Catholic Church, with interment to follow at Upper Hill Cemetery in Anaconda at 1 p.m.
Donations can be made to Rocky Mountain Hospice, the Macular Degeneration Foundation (www.eyesight.org), the Lustgarten Foundation (www.lustgarten.org), the PANCAN organization (www.pancan.org) or charity of the donor’s choice.
Express condolences at www.mtstandard.com/obits.