Leta ‘Ellen’ Thorpe

Thorpe Enlarge photo


Longtime Cortez resident Leta “Ellen” Thorpe died Friday, April 13, 2012, at her home. She was 96.

She was born to Everett Leroy and Chrissie (Seipel) Scammahorn on March 24, 1916, in Anthony, Kan.

Her family later moved to Colorado, living in Montrose, Fort Garland, Mount Blanca and Alamosa.

After graduating from high school, Mrs. Thorpe attended business school and, upon completion, moved to Cortez.

“Ellen and her sister, Grace, were recognized by the school for their determination to succeed when faced with extreme hardships including the loss of their mother and family and the loss of their home,” her family said, “resulting in the need for them to walk miles every day to school.”

In Cortez, she met Cortez Fire Chief Henry (Hank) Thorpe. The couple married Feb. 8, 1945, in Gallup, N.M. The Gallup Fire Department hosted an elaborate ceremony, and the reception continued to Cortez, where fellow Cortez firefighters joined in the fun.

Mrs. Thorpe worked at McDermith Motor Co. and the Montezuma County Clerk’s office before joining her new husband in their new business, Valley Market, where they sold fresh produce from McElmo Canyon. After several years, the Thorpes sold the market and began a new venture, T&L Wholesale Co., which sold cigarettes, candy, paper goods and sundries.

Mrs. Thorpe was self-taught on the violin and piano and enjoyed playing both. She loved to sing and had an amazing range, her family said.

She enjoyed gardening and raising food. For the last 36 years, she had been blind, but continued living in her home.

“She was a self-reliant woman, having grown up in the days when you did it yourself or did without,” her family said. “If you wanted to know how to do just about anything, just ask Ellen. She was part of a group of strong individuals who grew up in a time when life was hard, and because of this, Ellen had stamina that amazed her family.”

Mrs. Thorpe was preceded in death by her husband of 32 years, Henry Thorpe; and grandsons Levi Morris, Dusty Morris and Jimmy Morris.

She is survived by her daughters Karen Yarbrough of Dolores and Linda McWilliams of Cortez; stepson, Gene Thorpe, of San Diego; seven grandchildren; two stepgrandsons; 11 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, 2012, at the Ertel Memorial Chapel, 42 N. Market St., in Cortez. The Revs. Shelby Bailey and Tom Towns will officiate. Burial will take place next to her husband at Cortez Cemetery.

To send condolences, visit www.ertelfuneralhome.com.