Viola Patterson Ellis, a native Washingtonian, was born on March 11, 1927 to Novella A. and James E. Patterson. She was the youngest of three children; her older brother, Oliver, predeceased her, and her older sister, Bernice, survives her. The biological mother of Viola and her siblings, died one week after Viola was born. Her father raised his three children alone until he met and married Willie Mae Jones, who then helped raise them along with a daughter of her own. They became a close-knit, loving family of six, raised by parents who maintained a strong Christian faith and who placed a great priority on receiving a quality education.
Viola was educated in the D.C. public schools graduating from Dunbar High School. Upon high school graduation, she enrolled at Miner Teachers College (now the University of the District of Columbia) where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and English and Geography. While attending Miner Teachers College, she was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an organization she held in high regard throughout her life.
She also went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in Administration and Supervision from New York University and added to her education by taking additional courses at American University, D.C. Teacher’s College and George Washington University.
While attending Miner Teachers College, Viola met her future husband, Percy Langston Ellis, Jr. The two were married on December 23, 1952, a faithful and loving union that lasted 50 wonderful years, until his death in 2003. The couple was blessed with Percita, their only child, who was born on Percy’s birthday, six years into their marriage.
Viola enjoyed a distinguished and impactful career as an educator in D.C. public schools for more than 30 years. Her career began as an English and social studies teacher at Neval Thomas School, which at that time was an elementary and junior high school. She also taught elementary-age children at W.B. Webb, Goding, and Powell schools. She also worked as a demonstration teacher who provided in-service training to other elementary teachers, trained student teachers, and served as a supervisor of teachers prior to her retirement.
Even in retirement, Viola’s commitment to teaching and learning continued through her service with the D.C. Retired Educators Association, Inc. She was particularly proud of a scholarship fund that provided scholarships to four high school seniors each year who sought to obtain a college degree.
In addition, she was an active member of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and served on its Diaconate Board. She was honored with emeritus status for her unwavering service and commitment to that board.
She was also active in the American Association of Retired Persons and the Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
Viola died on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, just six days after her 94th birthday, in Lexington, Virginia where she lived alongside her loving daughter, Percita, a pediatrician at Rockbridge Area Health Center. While now being reunited with her husband, Percy, for an everlasting heavenly marriage, her memories will continue to be cherished on earth by Dr. Percita L. Ellis, daughter; and Bernice I. Patterson, older sister; as well as nieces, nephews, cousins , and friends.
Despite living with Alzheimer’s disease her last four years, Viola was always able to recall the opening line of Mark Antony’s speech in the play, Julius Caesar. In the moments before her passing, Viola and Percita recited, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”
In lieu of flowers, consider a contribution to Scholarship Fund c/o D.C. Retired Educators Association, Inc., PO Box 41056, Washington, DC 20018. In memory of Viola P. Ellis.
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