ORANGE Robert Muhn Ellison, Sr.,”Big Bob”, ”Mr. E”, age 87, a longtime resident of 118 Walnut Hill in Orange, passed away peacefully on January 23, at Quabbin Valley Healthcare after contracting COVID. He loved music, teaching, and his students, music was in his heart always.
He was born on April 3, 1933 in Somerville, MA, the son of Edward A. and Florence A. (Muhn) Ellison and spent his early years living on Stone Avenue. He sang the Star-Spangled Banner as a young child in the Boston Garden for his beloved Bruins, served as Choir Director of St. Joseph’s Church, played basketball and was a winning pitcher in baseball, known to sell newspapers, shoes, and led and sang in the dance band, The Croon Kings, all while in high school and college.
Bob graduated from Lowell State Teachers College in 1950 with a B.A. in Music Education and continued post grad studies at UMASS Amherst. He taught at Black River High School in Ludlow, VT where he met and married his beautiful wife, Ann-Marie Kearney. They married on April 16, 1955 and have enjoyed 65 years of marriage. Leaving Ludlow, Bob and Ann-Marie settled in Orange in 1959, and stayed.
Bob taught at Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School in Orange for more than 35 years as the Director of Music, teaching junior and senior high bands and choruses, and where he created the Swinging Senators Marching Band, a source of pride and joy for the whole community. Bob arranged and composed fabulous music and drafted exuberant marching productions, (marching and moving formations for nearly 170 pieces!) for the football halftime shows, including two half time shows for the New England Patriots in the early 1970s and for soccer’s New England Tea Men.
Bob conducted concert bands whose numbers included huge quantities of French horns, tubas, trombones, bassoons, bass clarinets, saxes, saxes, and more saxes, conducted Senior High choruses accompanied on piano by his wife, Ann-Marie, (Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ and ‘The Last Words of David’), and directed and had students participate in countless music festivals, such as The Quabbin Valley Music Festival, and auditioned select groups such as All District , All State, and All Eastern United States Choruses and Bands.
Bob also believed in giving back and doing good deeds. He was the Local Chairman and Chief Fundraiser, along with his students, for many years for the American Heart Association, and fielded yearly trips to Boston Children’s Hospital for Christmas concerts on the Pediatric Cardiac Care Unit and throughout the hospital. Bob was always ready to put on a parade or concert, stopping mid parade to perform for The Eastern Star Home residents and other eldercare facilities.
Bob will be most remembered for the vast quantities of students whose lives he touched through the music programs. He actively recruited any and all students into his non-auditioned groups, firmly believing that music was for everybody, and everybody belonged.
Practice makes Perfect and Don’t Panic, Adjust! were two common refrains heard in Room 42, the Music Room, a home base and a place of acceptance for many a student. Bob also loved teaching and making music at The Christian Academy in Holden, MA; Maria Monte Academy in Greenfield, MA; St. Joseph’s in Keene, NH; and Full Circle Elementary School in Bernardston, MA in subsequent years. He believed you could never have too many participants. He loved his kids and was loved back.
He loved his Community and created the Athol/Orange Community Chorus in order to perform Christmas concerts at the Orange Town Hall for many years. The current Music Room at Mahar was dedicated in 2018 to Bob and Ann-Marie for their many years of service to their school community.
Bob leaves behind his adoring wife, Ann-Marie, currently residing at Quabbin Valley Healthcare and his children and their families: Mary-Ann Ellison of South Meriden, CT; Bob, Jr. and Christine Ellison of Westboro, MA; Posie Ellison, who has served faithfully as Bob and Ann-Marie’s caretaker and healthcare advocate for many years and to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, and her son, Eli and wife Tabbi Horowitz of Suffield, CT; Shane Ellison of Orange, MA; Kathy, Dave, Joey and Katie Guarnaccia of Carlisle, MA; George, Monica and Michael Ellison of North Conway, NH; Michael Ellison and partner Marcy Dyer of Amherst, MA and his daughters, Nina and Casey of Sturbridge, MA. Dad will be greatly missed.
He also leaves behind his beloved sisters, Carolyn Sullivan of Orleans, MA; and Eleanor and Jack O’Neil of Boca Raton, FL and Sister-in-law Clare Ellison of Naples, FL ; his Denning cousins, Ed, Dick and Maryellen, Marty and Susan; and many, many loving nieces and nephews and their extended families. He loved you all.
He is predeceased by his parents Florence and Edward A. Ellison, Sr. and brothers, George H. Ellison, Sr. and Edward A. Ellison, Jr., Aunt Ida and Marty Denning and their sons Robert and Ronnie. He was a beloved son-in-law to Mary and George V. Kearney, Sr. of Ludlow, VT and was predeceased by Ann-Marie’s brothers David and George Kearney Jr. He also was loved by his family dogs Jessie, Dickens, Jessa, and Petey, and shared many a piece of toast with them.
We all desire to come together and celebrate Bob’s life, but due to the limitations on gatherings due to Covid, we will be gathering in late summer or early fall with details forthcoming.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bob’s memory to the Orange Scholarship Foundation, " The Robert M. Ellison, Sr. Scholarship", P.O. Box 298, Orange, MA 01364-0298
Bob’s final resting place will be at Pleasant View Cemetery in Ludlow, VT. A memorial plaque will also be placed at South Cemetery in Orange, MA, a place where Bob and Ann-Marie often walked in these past years, visiting friends and loved ones.
Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family.
Guest book online at WWW.WITTYFUNERALHOME.COM
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert M. "Bob" Ellison Sr., please visit our floral store.