Frank M. Ellington was born July 10, 1924 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Ft. Madison, Iowa. Following graduation from Ft. Madison High School in 1942, he went to serve in the Army Air Corps including serving overseas in Newfoundland, where he worked on the engines of the bomber planes until the close of hostilities in 1945. He returned to Ft. Madison to complete a 4-year Machinist Apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Railroad. Frank met and married Genola Grace Suter and in 1946 were married at Kahoka, Missouri. In early 1948, they were blessed with a daughter, Wanda. At the conclusion of the 4-year apprenticeship, coupled shortly with the discontinuance of most railroad work at Ft. Madison with the Santa Fe, Frank, Grace and Wanda moved to student housing at Ft. Des Moines where on the GI Bill, Frank went to Drake University where he received a Master's Degree in music education and administration. Upon graduation from Drake, he taught in several schools in Iowa starting at Waukee, Iowa in 1951. Frank and Grace had welcomed a second daughter Cheryl, born in 1952.
For many years Frank performed as 1st Oboist with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra. Additionally he played clarinet and saxophone in many area dance bands. He taught music for 32 years in Iowa schools. He auditioned and was employed to play various woodwind instruments at the former KRNT theater pit orchestra for many touring Broadway musicals including "South Pacific", "King and I", "Pajama Game", "Man of La Mancha" just to name a few. He also played the yearly Shipstad & Johnson's Hollywood based Ice Follies and many Ringling Brothers circuses. Other work was with the American Legion Argonne Post Military Band, playing 2 concerts daily during the 10-day Iowa State Fairs and with the Des Moines City Band, playing the weekly concerts at the State Capitol "Music Under the Stars" on Sunday nights. While he and wife Grace were employed in the Colfax schools, Frank singly authored or co-authored seven books on Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway subjects, his passion. He helped form the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society. He had been a member of the Fort Madison Masonic Lodge #13 for 72 years and was a 32nd Degree Mason.
Frank had retired from teaching to care for Grace during her battle with cancer. Frank eventually moved to Panora and married Jackie Cochran in 1998. With the onset of Parkinson's Disease, he and his wife Jackie moved back to his hometown of Ft. Madison where they enjoyed several years. When Jackie was unable to care for Frank at home, he resided at the Clark County Nursing Home in Kahoka, Missouri in 2014. He passed peacefully with Jackie by his side on December 20, 2018. A service will be held at the Coburn Funeral Home in Colfax, Iowa on Saturday, March 16, 2019 with a visitation at 1:00 and service at 2:00. He will be buried in the Colfax Cemetery after the service. Frank is survived by his wife Jackie Ellington of Kahoka, Missouri, a step-daughter Elizabeth (John) McBurney of Kansas; a sister Marjorie (Charles) Ringwalt of Corona Del Mar, California; two daughters - Wanda (John) Gulick of Urbandale, Iowa and four grandchildren, Michael Gulick, Jennifer (Pat) Gagle, Lisa (Chris) Ullerich and Renee (Chad) Martin and eight great grandchildren, Ben, Lauren, Abby, Grant, Brett, Grace, Dylan and Caden; a second daughter Cheryl O'Braza of West Des Moines, Iowa and one grandchild Stephanie (Richard) Mueggenberg and two great grandchildren, Avery and Owen.
Mr. Ellington was one of the most influential people in my life. His passion for living showed in all he did. He was a very talented musician and his love for music infected all of us around him. I recall going with him to gigs when he played with the Ralph Zarnow Band. He had a way of making everyone feel important. His caring demeanor and unassuming style, sometimes overshadowed by his passion and excitement, he truly was one of a kind. He is a big reason I am still playing with a band today. His love for the railroad and trains showed in his work on the many books he created. Really amazing work captured forever. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. To quote Mr. Ellington "Wail man wail" DaveWolf Colfax class of 1978
This man had a profound influence on me in my eay years of band. I probably would have quit without his encouraging words. I still play to this day at 51 years old. Thanks Mr. E. Rest In Peace.
Mr Ellington taught me how to play the tuba and sousaphone, also the bass piano. He exposed our band to all types of music, some forms rat had never been played in our school bands before. He was patient, but insisted that we do our best in all things. He was a great teacher and facilitator. He was also a great listener and mentor. My prayers for comfort and strength to his family in this time of sadness and loss. RIP Mr. Ellington.
Mr Ellington introduced me to music in 1981 when he taught me to play the saxophone. I remember a wonderful man who cared deeply for his students. I have vivid memories of our one-on-one lessons where he would “tap” out the rhythm on your knee. I probably still have bruises 😀. He had a profound influence on me and my life showing me the power if music upon your soul. I now work for Americans for the Arts in governmental affairs where I advocate for the arts and music for all Americans. Thank you Mr Ellington
I am deeply saddened. I spent some of my early teaching career teaching Vocal Music alongside Frank Ellington at Colfax. Those years at Colfax with Frank were my favorite years of teaching, largely because of his support and friendship...I’ll never forget his smile, his laughter, and his encouraging hand on my back! It was a privilege to share membership in the Masonic fraternity with him and I had the honor of presenting him with his 50 year certificate as a 32nd degree Mason. What a wonderful friend he was — a talented musician, a man of great integrity, and a enthusiastic mentor, My condolences to his family and all others who were touched by his life ... we are the richer for his having reached out to us.
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