Ellen Dittebrandt was born Allen Dittebrandt on Jan. 13, 1962, in Charleston, South Carolina’s Naval hospital. Her family lived in Arvada, Colo., from 1975 to 1980. She eventually moved to Portland, attending the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon School of Massage.
Ellen has lived in the Gorge for over 20 years. She is survived by her wife, Judith Cunningham Dittebrandt, of Mosier.
There was no halfway with Ellen. She was 100-percent Ellen, 100-percent genuine, 100-percent of the time; whether she was having a good day or a bad day. She wore her heart on her sleeve — she was brave and she was humble, she struggled and she soared. All through her life, she faced her fears, acknowledged them, grappled with them, and moved through them. In all areas of life, Ellen was a renaissance woman of expression.
Dittebrandt was an inspired artist, with unmatched vision for capturing color on canvas and highlighting a scene we may have walked past in ignorance 100 times or more. Her artwork shared the journey of her long outdoor adventures into hidden nooks of wildness. Even in the darkness of the gray winter inversion, she could “see the enchantment of natural spaces and fill them with light and colors so intense they could sing.” Her palettes were a mixture of paint and music, from turquoise to terracotta and from Bach to Bassnectar. With unbounded enthusiasm, her art gave form for her playful muse.
Ellen’s heart was so big that it overflowed into service. Her volunteer efforts reached up and down the Gorge. Over the years Ellen gave countless hours to the Mosier School; teaching art, donating time and artwork to its fundraisers, and forming enriching relationships with any child lucky enough to create by her side.
Her volunteerism also extended far beyond the school doors into many Gorge fire departments. The Dalles, Mosier and Hood River fire stations quickly became her homes away from home. She gave full-time hours to fighting fires, responding to medical emergencies, driving ambulances, cleaning stations, making maps, coordinating and teaching CPR classes, and being the treasurer for the volunteer fire association. Any training or medical conference could count on her attendance. Her fellow firefighters respected and admired her commitment to improving herself and the department, naming her Volunteer Firefighter of the Year in Mosier in 2011 and in Hood River in 2013.
Ellen put no less passion and dedication into her sports. She was a 3rd-degree black belt and dedicated triathlete. Each day, she redefined what was possible as she swam, biked, or ran. Friends marveled at her endurance — there were no limits to what she would attempt or accomplish. She set epic goals and directed her endless energy into achieving them. She walked from Mosier to Hood River regularly. She ran a trail marathon in her first year of running. She swam from Mosier to Hood River for fun. Despite this single-minded dedication to her own improvement she was also the biggest cheerleader in her triathlon training group, always encouraging her fellow athletes. She gave each sport 110 percent, just as she gave life 111 percent.
It was quintessential Ellen to head out on the 120-mile, early-morning ride Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, that ended her life at the hands of a drowsy driver. It was one more “Ellen Epic” — she was going to accomplish something big, bold, and colorful. Though Ellen’s departure was abrupt and our hearts are shattered, we are left with her vision of how to live and her words:
“Be Positive” even if it is just a smile, or nice words. Be the peace you want to see. Be the love you want to feel. Be kind. Be understanding. Be a friend, be the change you want to see. We are here to enjoy life. Thank you all for being my friend. Feeling blessed.”
Ellen is gone, but her spirit can live on in us. Be bold. Be colorful. Give everything 110 percent. Be like Ellen.
A memorial service will be held from 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, at the Mosier Community School, 1204 First Ave., Mosier, OR 97040. Sympathy cards/care packages can be sent to Judith Dittebrandt, P.O. Box 281, Mosier, OR 97040.
A time for friends to gather and be present during a viewing is planned for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at Anderson’s Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River, OR 97031; 541-386-1000. Please visit andersonstributecenter.com to leave a note of condolence for family.
Condolences are being received online.
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