Ellen Blanka (Ernst) Gillespie Carney, a longtime resident of Sag Harbor, died on April 18 at Southampton Hospital, just a week after her 87th birthday.
Born a “blue baby” on April 10, 1926, in Zurich, Switzerland, she contracted bronchiectasis in childhood. Years spent in her photographer father’s darkroom, exposing her to chemical fumes, compromised her lung function, leading in later years to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
Her health problems did not deter her inquisitive mind and zest for life. Multi-talented, she excelled in the arts, including photography, painting and coloring in the “naive” tradition, and handcrafts such as crocheting, knitting and weaving. She knitted footwear, caps and scarves for Swiss military personnel during World War II.
She graduated from the Zurich Gymnasium. The presence of United States military personnel posted in Switzerland during the war provided an opportunity to meet her future husband, Howard F. Gillespie, who, breaching his Quaker anti-war principles, had enlisted in the Army to help combat Hitler’s militarism. They were married in 1948 after her exploratory visit to his hometown of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
The couple had two children, Fred and Hester.
While raising her children, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Cheyney State College and a master’s degree in education from Westchester State College, both in Pennsylvania, specializing in psycho-educational therapy for children afflicted with autism and other learning problems. She worked at a consulting agency in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
After her divorce from Howard Gillespie in 1976, she married David Carney—a family friend since 1953—in 1978. Mr. Carney’s wife, Helen Elizabeth Smith Hall, died in 1976. She spend many years in Africa and the Caribbean traveling with her husband on his various assignments by the United Nations as an economic adviser to governments.
Ms. Carney wrote a book, “From Here… To There,” about her Swiss childhood; collated and edited “Memories of Yesterday,” a collection of stories written by the senior citizens at the Bridgehampton Senior Center; and contributed to “Westward,” a collection of portraits of Swiss-American women, edited by Susann Bosshard-Kälin.
Ms. Carney’s remains were cremated according to her wishes.