WILLIAMSBURG — On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, Reverend Mary Ellis answered the Divine Calling of our “Heavenly Father” while home with children at her bedside. Her life began in Surry, Va., the daughter of the late John F. and Ophelia Council on June 6, 1927.
At an early age, she confessed Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and joined the family church at Swann’s Point Baptist Church in Spring Grove, Va. She attended the local public schools and after graduating, joined in holy matrimony to Andrew Ellis. This was a union made in heaven because they were both born on the sixth day of June.
After moving to Williamsburg, Virginia, in her early years, Mary worked out of her home as a certified beautician, seamstress, and millinerist, drawing upon her artistic and creative talents in service to others. Following a brief stint working at the Motor House Cafeteria, with seven children, Mary felt led to return to school, as a college freshman, to pursue a degree in Education. It was not the easiest task, but Mary persevered until she received her bachelor’s and two masters’ degrees from Norfolk State College, Hampton Institute, and the University of Virginia, respectively. She began her career in Education in Matthews, Virginia, integrating the school system as the first African American teacher on staff. She retired from her career in Education as a School Social Worker for the school district of York County. Always pressing on to a higher calling, Mary began a lifetime of ministry. She started at the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, where she served on numerous committees, sang in the choir, and under the leadership of Pastor Thomas Shields led the ministry for Retirees. At First Baptist, she was honored to become the first female licensed minister, as well as part of the first mother & son duo to be ordained in a combined ceremony.
Her ministry included missionary trips to Africa, China, Australia, Russia, and Israel. She participated in the ministries of Marilyn Hickey, The 700 Club, Billy Graham Crusades, and Tres Dias of North Georgia. She also participated in the First Baptist College Ministry at the College of William and Mary. She later began a Friday night Women’s Bible Study in her home. However, her true passion and legacies were her weekly radio program and the Operation Hope Ministry’s Food Pantry which served more than a hundred families per week.
After many years worshipping and serving at First Baptist, Mary joined her son at Mr. Pleasant Baptist Church where she was an Associate Minister and Mother of the Church. There, she continued her ministry of feeding the community through the food pantry. For many years she was a frequent guest minister in other churches and was instrumental in helping to bring churches together, reaching across racial and denominational barriers. She was featured in various newspapers, magazines, and documentaries and was the honored recipient of the Key to the City in James City County, and served as its Grand Marshall of an annual Christmas Parade.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Andrew, daughter, Millicent, and her seven siblings.
Remaining, to carry on her legacy and to cherish her blessed memories are her children, Albert (Lucy), Lydia Ray (Ken), Ronald (Sharmaine), Donald, Anderton, Ferm Pressey (Johnnie), Marvin (Tyra), Melody Hundley (John); seventeen grandchildren; twenty-one great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren; four sisters-in-law; a host of nieces, nephews, and countless loving friends.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, November 18, 2021, in Bethel Restoration Center. Livestream will be available at the beginning of the services. Interment to follow in the Ellis Family Cemetery, Waverly, Virginia. Mrs. Ellis may be viewed from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, in Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Facial coverings are required for all services.
Professional services entrusted to the staff of Whiting’s Funeral Home, 7005 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185. 757-229-3011 whitingsfuneralhome.com