Longtime Bedford Middle School nurse Ellen Flatley Corey died unexpectedly on Wednesday. She was 86.
Born in 1935 in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Irish immigrants, Ellen was the 7th child in a raucous family of 13 siblings. She graduated from St. Mary’s High School and St. Elizabeth’s School of Nursing in Brookline. As a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Ellen agreed to a blind double date with her friend Rita and 2 young resident doctors. When she realized that she was not matched with Joseph Corey, Ellen persuaded Rita to feign illness. The rest is history.
Joe and Ellen were married in 1959. They returned to his hometown of Norwalk, where they made their home on Bettswood Road and raised 6 daughters.
The young family faced a challenge in 1967, when Joe was drafted to serve as an Army doctor in South Korea. He and Ellen were dogged in their determination to shorten the family’s separation, ultimately moving across the world to reunite with him.
The couple later called those 2 years “a wonderful family time.” Recently, Ellen and the older daughters reminisced about that time with Ellen’s granddaughter Corey Ellen, who now lives in South Korea.
Ellen’s life was full and vibrant. Her days were a busy mix of family, a wide circle of friends, her faith, watching sports, and ‘Jeopardy.” In the early ’70 she was a contestant on the game show.
Ellen played tennis for many years, then became a golfer. She returned to nursing after her girls were older, and was the school nurse at Bedford Middle School for decades.
Her daughters often marveled that their mother was busier than they were. She was the life of every party, and to the end planned social events and dinners out with friends.
But her true love was her family. Ellen was married for 51 years to the love of her life. They doted on their children and grandchildren. Each knew they were her favorite, at least until great-granddaughter Hattie came along. She was there to help her daughters with their babies, and traveled to celebrate each grandchild’s high school graduation.
Her warm yet fierce acceptance of individuality inspired strong, close relationships with her descendants, and Ellen’s spirit of progressive fortitude was a transformative influence in the development of their character.
In the years after losing Joe in 2010, Ellen traveled often to the cities where her girls live. In each neighborhood she found her favorite places to walk, eat, go to Mass, and get the New York Times for her daily crossword puzzle. She visited Ecuador, Rome, Hawaii, and frequently drove up to the Boston area to visit with her cherished siblings and large extended family.
She rarely missed a wedding or a funeral. To be at Ellen’s table was the best seat in any house.
Ellen emailed her daughters to say good morning every day, and ended her messages with a closing that varied according to the general sentiment of the season.
On the day before she died, her morning message was bright and happy. She had hosted a successful gathering the night before for the multigenerational book club she had been an active participant in for 21 years. She felt great and was going for a walk with her friend Alice, as she did most days. On that day she closed with: “more later…keep safe and warm. I love you. Mom.”
Ellen is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law Mary Beth, Ann, Ellie (Bill Hanrahan), Julie (John Kelley), Jane (Doug Holt) and Jacquie; her grandchildren, Colleen (Brenton Murrell), Erin, and Joseph Young, Corey, Noah and Dylan Holt, Clara Kennedy, and her great-granddaughter Hatten Murrell.
She was predeceased by her grandson, James Joseph Kennedy, and siblings Fran, Jim, Peggy, Tom, Paul and Monica. Ellen is survived by her siblings Bill, Mary, Kitty, Brian, Kevin and Ginny, and many nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law.
Visiting hours are Sunday, March 13 (2 to 5 p.m., Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road, Fairfield). A funeral Mass will be held on Monday, March 14 (0 a.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 1719 Post Rd., Fairfield.
Donations in Ellen’s name can be made to The Kennedy Center, 2440 Reservoir Avenue, Trumbull, CT 06611, Attn: Stephanie Campbell, To send an online condolence, click here. (Hat tip: Mary Condon)