Ben Ellis was a man for whom the unseen things were more real than the things he could see. He was a devoted husband and father, a beloved teacher, and a loyal friend. Intensely interested in the lives of those around him, seeing gifts they didn’t see themselves and giving hope in their struggles, Ben quietly persuaded everyone in his orbit that it might be possible that God loved them after all.
After a nine-month struggle with esophageal cancer, Ben died in the early morning hours of September 16, at the age of fifty. Early in that struggle, he wrote, “Cancer and its treatment is often called a ‘journey.’ I prefer to think that my whole life is a journey, the perfect one that God planned for me before I took my first breath. This cancer isn’t a new journey, it’s the same one I’ve been on for almost 50 years. This isn’t a detour. It is God’s perfect path. I don’t really understand, but I do trust.”
That journey began in Laramie, Wyoming, on March 13, 1966. Ben grew up mostly in Brookings, South Dakota, and Fort Collins, Colorado. In high school, he was a football player, a baseball player, and a cheerleader for the basketball team. He was a Denver Broncos fan. He was also a member of various choirs.
Ben attended Colorado State, his hometown university, where he earned a BA in liberal arts with a concentration in vocal performance. He sang in operas and musicals throughout college. A love of Dante’s Divine Comedy led him to learn Italian through independent study.
After college, Ben met Shelley Pasierb, who became his wife in 1992. They moved to Dallas, where Shelley attended medical school and Ben enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary. He completed his Master of Theology in 1996.
The Ellises moved to Nashville in 1996. There they have raised five children. In his Nashville years, Ben was a college minister at Christ Presbyterian Church, a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt Divinity School, a stay-at-home father, and, for the last eight years, a Latin and Bible teacher at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
In the last days of his life, when his high school students—all four-hundred of them—gathered on his lawn to sing the worship songs he loved so much, Ben’s final words to them recapitulated the words he had always said to them: “I believe more than ever that God is good and that He is with us. I am full of hope, peace, and joy. I wish all this for you. Look to Jesus to know, to believe, and to be filled.”
After a life of kindness, faith, beauty, and devotion to his family, friends, and students, Ben’s last days were a resounding answer to a prayer he described less than a month before he died: “God has anchored my soul to the firm hope I have in Jesus, and I am praying for more days. Not selfishly, though. The truth is these days are pretty tough. But I thank God each morning for another day of seeing Him in me, and showing Him to others. I ask for more days to give Him glory here on earth, and to show Jesus as best I can to you.”
Ben Ellis is survived by his wife Shelley; his children Betsey, Sam, Lucy, Charlie, and Jane; his father Bob Ellis and stepmother Suzy Ellis of Fort Collins, Colorado; his mother Colleen Ellis of Fort Collins, Colorado; his sister Cherlyn Ellis of Reno, Nevada; and his brother Bret Ellis of Fort Collins, Colorado.
In lieu of flowers, the Ellis family has requested that contributions be made to the CPA Annual Fund in Ben’s memory. To make a gift online please visit http://cpalions.org/give
For those wishing to contribute directly to the family for medical and general living expenses during this time, a gofundme account has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/benellisfamily