Arlene Whitaker Ellis passed away peacefully with family by her side on August 2, 2023, in Gilbert, Arizona just short of her 80th birthday from complications of a recent stroke. Arlene was born on August 7, 1943, in Salt Lake City, Utah to George William Whitaker and Vera Helena Sorensen Whitaker. She spent her early years in the Liberty Park area and always had fond memories of watching the Days of ‘47 parade, playing tennis and swimming with friends at the courts and pool at Liberty Park.
Arlene graduated from South High School in 1961 and later attended the University of Utah. In 1963, Arlene and her best friend Annette Kooyman Urhan, planned the getaway trip of their lifetime. They had planned to spend 10 days visiting several Hawaiian Islands. After arriving in the tropical paradise, they fell in love with the beaches, palm trees and Hawaiian sunsets. When it was time for their return flight to the mainland, Arlene and Annette made a decision that would surprise many. They called their families and said they were not coming home. They found jobs and made their new life in Hawaii. Arlene worked for a pharmacy and she and Annette found an apartment. For over a year they lived the Hawaiian dream spending their days and nights on the beach of Waikiki.
Arlene married Merwyn Bennett Ellis on November 5th, 1965, in the Salt Lake Temple. Together, they had four children and she enjoyed being their mom more than anything. She was involved in all aspects of their lives, whether it be the team mom for sports, the Den Leader for Cub Scouts or any school activity that she could help with. There were two things her kids could always count on, her amazing cooking and her talents when it came to crafts. Whether it be creating Valentines Day boxes, amazing, decorated birthday cakes or designing art projects, Arlene always made sure her kids had the best in the school class. She would make the most amazing sugar Easter Eggs decorations for her children and grandchildren. If she wasn’t making some amazing craft project, she was cooking or baking the best food you could make. There was nothing better than her homemade frosted cookies.
Arlene absolutely loved her grandchildren and spending time with them brought her so much joy. When they were younger, she would put on elaborate parties for them, filled with amazing food and numerous fun activities. She always wanted to know what was going on in their lives and enjoyed sending them unique gifts for special occasions.
One of Arlene’s passions in life was politics and government. In the early 1980’s she became very interested in being involved with the Republican Party. She believed in the power of grassroots politics and that the volunteers were the heart and soul of the party. She started off as the local Precinct Chairman. In 1988, she was elected by delegates as the Vice Chairwoman of the Utah State Republican Party. In 1992, she was elected as the Republican National Committee Woman representing Utah in the Republican National Committee. She would serve in this position for 12 years until 2004. She attended President George W. Bush’s Presidential Inauguration as well as several events at the White House as a representative of the Republican National Committee. Arlene was a Utah State Delegate for 5 Republican National Conventions, an event she especially enjoyed.
She was an Elector for the state of Utah in 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the 2000 election of Bush vs. Gore there was a lot of controversy based on how close the election was. There was a lot of speculation as to whether any of the electors would change their vote to Vice President Gore. Arlene was interviewed by several major news organizations and asked if she would change her vote. Despite receiving several messages from people across the country to change her vote, there was no question her vote would be going to George W. Bush. In front of hundreds of people in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building, she and the other 4 electors from Utah cast their vote for Bush. Bush ended up with 271 electoral votes, just one more than required to win the presidency.
Her other passion was the Utah Jazz. In the early 1980’s Arlene was President of the Utah Jazz Booster Club. In a time before the Utah Jazz had wide support from the community, she was involved with many aspects of the Utah Jazz Organization. Arlene would often travel with the team for away games, organize Holiday parties, schedule players to speak at schools and other events, and “adopted” players such as Ricky Green and Thurl Bailey to help them integrate into the community. She gave generously of her time to the Utah Jazz and was a Jazz Fan until her last day.
She will be deeply missed by all who knew her. To her children she truly reflected the quote by Abraham Lincoln, “Everything that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my sweet mother.”
Arlene was preceded in death by her parents and her husband Merwyn Ellis. She is survived by her brother Earl Whitaker (Pam) New Harmony, Utah, and her four children, Mark Ellis, Draper, Utah, Angie Cannon (Patrick), Honeyville, Utah, Paul Ellis (Aimee), Kaysville, Utah, Alli Florence (Tyson), Mesa, Arizona, along with 13 Grandchildren and 1 Great Grandchild.
A Celebration of Life will be held on August 26, 2023, from 3 to 5 pm at the Suncrest Clubhouse located at 2016 E. Village Green Circle, Draper, Utah. Friends and family are welcome to come by and visit anytime during those hours.