Elinor Yalen Chamas, known as Ellie to family and many friends, passed away at her home in Fitchburg, MA, on June 13, 2023.
Ellie was born in Hartford Connecticut on June 13, 1948. On the day she was born, her father, Seymour, was on active duty in the Navy and running back and forth to the radio room on his ship awaiting news of his first child’s birth. Seymour’s naval career saw the Yalens living in many locations across the United States. The family would grow to include her brothers Paul, David, Bill, and sister Debbie. Upon Seymour’s retirement from the Navy, they moved to Framingham and then Sudbury, MA, where Ellie attended and graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.
Ellie attended Tufts University during an exciting and turbulent time, with the women’s liberation movement and protests against the war in southeast Asia shaping her experience. Ellie credits her parents for providing her the opportunity to spend her junior year abroad in Paris. Her wonderful time there and her continued study of the French language would inspire the direction of her early adult life. After graduating from Tufts in 1970, Ellie spent a year working, and during that time she made a decision that would change her life forever: Ellie joined the Peace Corps and requested to be posted to French West Africa, making the most of her fluency in French.
Ellie was posted to Senegal in the coastal town of St. Louis. There, she taught English and provided support to local high school students. Not long after her arrival in St. Louis, she experienced an incredible and life-altering turn of events. Ellie fell from her bicycle and was helped by a kindly (and handsome) neighbor, Assad Chamas. She always thanked her lucky stars that she worked so hard to become fluent in French, as Assad didn’t speak a word of English! The two were married on September 2nd, 1973. Although they married stateside, they would return to Senegal for another two years before making the decision to move back to the Boston area permanently.
The happy couple lived in Cambridge and Somerville, while Assad got his American degree and worked odd jobs, and Ellie worked as a typist. This was the beginning of her long career in publishing. In 1976, they welcomed their first child, Joseph. In 1981, upon Assad’s graduation from UMass Boston, the family moved to Fitchburg. Assad had secured a position teaching French and coaching soccer at Applewild School. Around the same time, Elinor began her association with Addison-Wesley Publishing company, working in textbooks as an Editor, Executive Editor, and Project Director.
In 1982, the family grew again with the birth of Ellie’s second son, Benjamin. They would live in Fitchburg for the next 40 years at their first home, 19 Brigham Park. Ellie loved her home and was always proud to be able to provide her sons with a safe and comfortable place to grow up. The Brigham Park house was a hub for extended family, and she hosted many Thanksgivings, Passovers, and celebrations. Ellie loved her family. She found immense joy in nightly dinners together, Friday nights out dancing with her husband, and weekends spent reading (and sometimes working). Ellie had many wonderful friends, who were very important to her, and she loved to meet them for long lunches filled with laughs and book discussions.
After working for Addison-Wesley for 10 years, she joined Brown Publishing Network and worked there for 15 years. When she retired in 2012, she was the Head of Reading, Language Arts, and ELL. Her long association with BPN included some of the proudest moments of her career and provided her with lifelong friends.
Ellie enjoyed a lovely retirement with her husband. They split time between Florida and Fitchburg, and eventually chose to live full-time in Melbourne, FL. There they enjoyed receiving family and friends, relaxing together each afternoon on their porch, and occasional lunches out exploring the coast.
In 2019, Ellie was diagnosed with cancer, and valiantly battled the disease until the end of her life. As her disease progressed, Ellie and Assad moved back to Fitchburg, buying a cozy condo — where they enjoyed several years reconnecting with local friends and living together peacefully. During this time, Ellie’s first and only grandchild, Siera, was born. Siera was a huge source of joy and pride for Ellie, and she was so glad to be able to be a loving and doting Grandma.
Ellie spent her final days enjoying her home and family. She passed away peacefully on June 13, 2023, surrounded by loved ones. It was her 75th birthday.
Ellie had a wonderful life and possessed an unwavering and contagious sense of optimism. She deeply loved her husband of nearly 50 years; she was an amazing and caring sister, mother and grandmother; and was a fantastic friend and mentor to many.
Ellie is predeceased by her father Seymour Yalen and her mother Jeanette (Brody) Yalen. She is survived by her husband, Assad; her three brothers, Paul, David, and Bill; her sister, Debbie; her cousin, Nancy; her two children, Joseph and Benjamin; their wives, Laura and Emily; her granddaughter, Siera; her granddog, Ruby; and too many friends and other loved ones to mention.
At Ellie’s request, there will be no services at this time. There will be a celebration of life planned by her family in the future.
Ellie would prefer that no flowers be sent. If people would like to do something in her honor, please choose a charity that means something to you personally and think of her as you donate.