To the impressive, effervesent and above all, lovable, Ellen Jayne

Today’s my birthday.

And a perfect time to reflect on the life of Ellen Jayne Wheeler. First cousin to my Dad, Ross Cummings. Second cousin to me and my siblings, I think that’s how it works?

And a heartfelt way to support my ‘cuz’ Donnie, Don. Who, by some miracle, I got to know when I moved to OKC to live with Dad and Pam as a young ado going to the same junior high Harding, which was about a 1,000 times bigger than the one I went to in Holdenville (there was even an underground pool!). And who accepted me unconditionally, on the spot. Was and is always a sweetheart. 😉

My first impression of Ellen Jayne: quite intimidating. She was a soloist at times at Crown Heights, and I would see her, sitting (perfect posture) up front with a demeanor and beauty the reminded me of Grace Kelly. That carried over to her time as my piano teacher. Strict, but encouraging. I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home (sibling stuff about noise and picking me up), but she was always supportive. I even did a recital with (ahem) six-year-olds. That’s tough.Bela Bartok, Bela Bartok, my frienemy. But that was also her way of saying, ‘You can do this, but you have to work at it.’ At least the judges said I had the hands and enthusiasm to move forward. Which, I hope justified her faith (and time spent) in me.

As an adult, I discovered a whole new side to Ellen Jayne, which I also cherish.

In the late ’90s, she and J. Clyde came to Minneapolis, and I had the pleasure of meeting them for tea and giving them a tour that included the St. Paul Cathedral. The two photos are included on this site.

This short visit was actually a pivotal event in my life.

As I watched these two people in love banter and laugh together (both on the same level, giving as good as they got) I thought, “Wow, that’s lovely. I hope to find that!”

And, yes, the two lovebirds/songbirds did break out in a spontaneous show tune, and I … beamed. I wouldn’t have wanted or expected anything else.

That, in the best way I can, sums up my experiences and impressions of my cousin Ellen Jayne. And of course, her relationship with J. Clyde.

Having reviewed the lovely, lovely tribute from Don and the online memorial (images and videos) organized by Keegan (thank you!), I am even more inspired by this woman.

Ellen Jayne lived an *amazing* life, with a level of determination, commitment, talent, and adorable joie de vivre (OK, everybody dance now!) that she shared with all who came in contact with her.

Big, big hugs and kisses to you, Ellen Jayne. And thank you so much for being a part of our lives.


Weathering a Pecos dirt storm with Ellen

We picked up Ellen at the Midland/Odessa airport and started to our high school reunion at Indian Lodge. A total brown-out dirt storm over took us in Pecos. After we pull off the highway, we could not see the ground next to our car. From time to time the dirt would let up a little and we could see the out line of cars on both sides of the highway. Cars were lined up in front back and back of us. Ellen, June and I would sing a while then we took turns praying. After an eternity, the storm let up and we drove to Indian Lodge.
Ellen stayed with us during the reunions in Granbury. We will never forget her boundless energy and love. Jerry Griffin

When I Was A Student in College

Soon after I became a college student, I found out the Ellen Jayne was a professor at the same university that I was attending, Oklahoma City University. My mother and I asked her what she was teaching, and she talked about the courses she taught. And we asked her about certain general education courses that students there have to take. I was impressed when I learned that she flies to Singapore to teach at the Singapore campus of OCU. About a month and a half ago, my mother asked her if she still travels to Singapore to teach. She said, “No, my days of flying there are over.” I’m fortunate and grateful to have known her.

My Love for Ellen Jayne

I have so many wonderful memories about Ellen Jayne. From the moment my husband, Craig and I started dating one of the first places he took me was to meet Dr. Wheeler and Ellen Jayne. She always refered to me and treated me as a daughter. There was no such thing as a bad day if you were priviledged enough to spend time with Ellen Jayne. She was and will always remain one of the brightest lights in my thoughts, memories, and experiences.

Dancing Queen

Besides having the pleasure of attending the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert with Ellen Jayne and George, my favorite memory is getting to share dancing moments at Ingrid’s Restaurant. She and George covered the dancefloor with smooth moves and a lot of smiles. George even coaxed my husband and I out on the dance floor to join them. Some other times I was honored to share moments with Ellen Jayne were family gatherings/celebrations. We watched fireworks together at Paige and Keegan’s home in Norman several times. EJ watched them and responded as though it was the first time she had seen them. She leaned against a very tall George and oohed and awed with great excitement. Ellen Jayne was a wonderful inspirational person! I will cherish her memories forever.

A Nice Time At Her House

One day about 10 years ago a few fellow church members and I were at her house for some food and fellowship. I think we ate lunch and then we sang some songs while she played the piano. It was a nice time at her house that I now regret taking for granted. It’s times like these that remind us to appreciate the friends and relationships we have.

Grandma’s Pancakes

Anytime I spent the night at grandma’s house I always anticipated breakfast time. Although I wasn’t a fan of boiled eggs, I was a fan of the yummy pancakes grandma made. Not only did grandma make pancakes, but I got to help with the process. Grandma taught me little tricks when making pancakes, she always said to watch for the bubbles to pop up around the edge, and then you knew it was time to flip it. Breakfast was one of my favorite things to take part in at grandma’s house. She was always prepared to teach her grandchildren new things, and I was ready to learn about everything related to pancakes. Thank you grandma for teaching me how to make the perfect pancake, it will be used often and in loving memory of you.

Journey to Egypt

This video, Dancing on a Faluk, was when we were on an evening Faluk boat ride. It is an egyptian sailboat. That song is one that is a folksong which is sung all over Egypt cause we heard it everywhere we went.

This second video of Ellen Jayne in the Cairo Market was our last day in Egypt and we had gone to shop. She had just bought those little musical instruments to bring back as a gift to her grandchildren. She just broke out into playing them with our tour guide and dancing, people all around stopped what they were doing to watch. People even tried to give her money thinking that she was a street performer. As you know, Ellen Jayne was one of a kind.

You couldn’t be unhappy or have a bad day when in her presence or in earshot of her. Craig, Wyatt and I are so grateful that we have been so blessed to call your family, our family. We love you all so very much.

One night at Pianists’ Club

Besides being an accomplished pianist, Ellen Jayne had a beautiful singing voice. Ellen Jayne was a longtime member of Pianists’ Club, even serving as its president for two years. Ellen had lost her husband Clyde the year before, so when she announced she would perform Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman’s Loves and Life), the members were stunned because we knew the songs were about the happy and sad events in a married woman’s life. One song, in particular, dealt with the death of the husband.
But Ellen Jayne sang the song cycle beautifully, and was accompanied just as sensitively by Jeanne Clewell. How they were able not just to get through that moving music but to do it so well, when the rest of us were wiping our eyes and stifling sobs, is a testament to her love for Clyde and to her professionalism. She dedicated her performance to his memory on the first anniversary of his death. I’ll never forget that night.