Ellis is not alone
We’re using this platform to keep family and friends updated about my Dad’s health journey. I hope that mom and dad will login to add to this journal as time goes on. Meanwhile, you’ve got me to share my family’s story. Here is where we are as of today.
On October 18th 2016, my dad, Ellis was diagnosed with cancer, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus to be specific. What was supposed to be a time of gratitude and anticipation as our family was planning our annual MOONDANCE fundraising event that honors my sister Karli Rose who died 14 years ago, at age 17 in a tragic car accident, turned into a nightmare. How could our family be struck again with a catastrophic and life-changing crisis?
My dad insisted that his diagnosis take a backseat to the planning and execution of MOONDANCE. He led us with his chin up, smile and even joined the house band to play a few songs. Somehow he compartmentalized the fear of the unknown with his own health while encouraging volunteers and family to make sure the event was a success so the MOONDANCE fund could continue benefit kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to attend RME music programs. The night was very tough on me and my family. We’re grateful for all of our supporters.
Since the day of diagnosis, my dad has gone through endless testing, found out that his cancer is at stage 4 and has spread to his lungs and liver and endured four weeks of aggressive chemotherapy that caused havoc to his body. Because of the difficulty swallowing and the effects of the chemo, my dad can barely eat. So these days, if he’s able to consume just 300 calories, we think it’s a good day. His ongoing treatment plan includes a mix of two chemo drugs; carboplatin and irinotecan once a week for 4 weeks, then 2 weeks off – for six rounds. Twenty-four weeks total. Dr. G. has told Dad this is not going to be easy. He is going to have to fight like hell.
My dad wants everyone to know that he’s grateful for the encouraging words and support. He continues to work (River Music Experience) as much as he can. If you know my dad, you know how much he loves the RME and its mission. Feeling so physically ill is hard for him, but not being able to interact with his colleagues, musicians and importantly, the kids – has been heartbreaking for my dad.
For three weeks, my dad didn’t play a note of music. He’s too sick. It’s so foreign for my kids and me to go to mom and dad’s house and not see my dad at the piano or with a guitar in his arms. He did have a good day a couple of weeks ago and I caught him on the piano. I couldn’t restrain the tears of gratitude. It’s the small things nowadays.
You probably already know, we’re a really tight family. I often think that because of the death of my sister, we’re much closer and dependent on one another than most. We don’t take a day for granted, friendships assumed or underestimate the value of our family.
We’re a proud family, especially dad and mom. I’ve grown up with remarkably generous parents. Whether lending a hand or a dollar, I’ve seen my parents offer kindness, love and service to friends and strangers alike. The values that my parents instilled in me are not principles taught in a classroom, but instead learned every day at home. And they would not ever think of asking others to help them.
So, I’m asking. There are so many out there that love and care about my dad. I need him to know that he is NOT fighting alone. If you’re so inclined, here are three options that would help my dad and family. 1). Pray for healing and peace so that he feels the love and destined for God’s glory. 2). Share a memory, story or encouraging words to my dad. 3). If you feel compelled, and as dad’s medical bills stack up, a contribution of any amount would help my mom and dad in this time of need.
The Adler hosted a tribute like none other today.
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me….” – Elvis Presley
There are no words. That’s been echoed over and over by hundreds, maybe thousands of people since the announcement of Ellis’ death on Friday morning.
So many hearts are broken and our community is suffering. But none more than Kristi, Ali, Karli and Jackson. God gained two angels from this family that day. Kristi’s father, Ed Swanson walked to the gates of heaven just hours later to join Ellis and about 30 minutes before Kristi and Ali could get to him.
It’s hard to imagine the grief.
Kristi shared with me the special night she and Ellis had the night before, they went to bed early and talked about everything and nothing. They slept peacefully side by side. In the morning, he nudged Kristi to wish her a good morning. It was shortly thereafter that Kristi hugged her husband for the last time. Friends, this is an extraordinarily strong family.
Ellis’ suffering has ended. The family’s has just begun.
In the true spirit of Ellis, the celebration service will be held on the stage of the Adler Theatre on Wednesday afternoon. That evening, the River Music Experience will host a musical tribute to Ellis with a jam session. See details below.
A separate memorial fund is being established for the family. Please send you donations to:
Ellis Kell Family
3030 7th Avenue
Rock Island, IL 61201
Notice of Services for Ellis Kell
Celebration of Life
Wednesday, December 21st
Visitation will take place at
2:00 pm before the Celebration of Life service at the Adler Theatre
Musical Tribute to Ellis and Jam Session
6:00 – 9:00 PM
River Music Experience
Posted by Rene Gellerman, friend who loves and adores Ellis and feels so blessed by the Kell family.
Kristi and Ali asked me to share that Ellis passed away this morning. His suffering has ended and he's now with his beloved daughter, Karli Rose.
Ellis Kell is a local legend. Bigger than life. This is a devastating loss for the family and the Quad Cities.
The family has asked for time and solitude. They will be making arrangements on Monday and will post as soon as service details are available.
Please continue your prayers for Kristi, Ali, Jack and Karli. On top of this loss, Kristi's father is gravely ill and needs time, love and lots prayers.
In the words of Ellis' icon, Elvis Presley, "It's a Blue Christmas." May God's Grace, peace and the comfort of family fill all our hearts.
With all my love and adoration for my hero and dear friend.
I can't even express to everyone how much we appreciate all your encouraging messages, texts, emails, and notes! I am especially grateful to those of you who have walked this path and have passed along your advice and suggestions! I know that the effects of chemo tend to be cumulative, so I'm sure that we will have even more difficult weeks to come but we still remain positive.We count on your prayers! We are one day closer to "normal"! We have 10 days to enjoy before facing round two!
Ellis, you are a difference maker. My kids still talk about you and how Rock Camp and Winter Blues were catalytic in shaping who they are today. Your friendship to me - has been more than I deserve. I have always admired and adored you - and will always stand with you. I love you deeply, my friend.
Ellis is a valuable member of the Quad Cities music community and has done so much for so many as well as touching the lives of people he will never know with his music. Ellis graciously sang at the memorial for my father, Lynne Chamberlin. It was a gesture that touched my family and will never be forgotten. Fight hard Ellis, fight hard!
Ali, I'm so very sorry for this. I was diagnosed in July with cancer and just recently completed my last round of chemo. I now am looking towards surgery which includes breaking my chest bone & then 6 weeks of radiation but all is looking good. It is the worst thing anyone could ever experience in their life. It's a fight, one that you've never fought before. I wish I was in more financially okay so I could help. I've been unable to work since July. I know the type of toll it takes on everyone. I do send my thoughts and prayers. & if you ever need anyone to talk to, I'm here. I know it feels very lonely at times like nobody understands. He's got this. Just HAVE TO stay positive!!
Lifting you and your family in our prayers, Ellis. You are such a blessing to music and the QC. God's blessings and love. Rest in Him.
I love your father! My students have all loved your father. Last year when I wanted my children to hear about Black Musicians, I called him. He created a great program. Additionally, one of favorite part of each school year for YEARS has been him singing my students' own blues lyrics. We love him and are thinking of him! ♥
My husband and I were deeply saddened to hear the news of Ellis’ death. It added another chapter to a year already filled with tragedy. Many have shared stories about the impact he had on their lives. This is ours: Our son, Douglas, lived and breathed music, and developed a passion for the blues as he was growing up. When he was in his preteen years, we signed him up for one of the youth music camps that Ellis had established through the RME. I will never forget the first day as we pulled up in the parking lot at the church where the camp sessions were to be held. Douglas, who typically had a very laid-back personality, was incredibly excited when he looked in through an open door on the side of the building. “Mom,” he exclaimed. “Ellis Kell is here!” As celebrity sightings go, he could not have been more impressed. That music camp was the first of many that our son attended through his junior high and high school years, with his favorite camps being the Winter Blues Camps at the RME. He had numerous opportunities to interact with Ellis over the years, and considered him to be a role model and mentor. Douglas died in a car accident in February of this year. Ellis was among the first to call our house and express condolences. He and Kristi attended Douglas’ visitation, and spoke to us with understanding and compassion, as parents who had also experienced the loss of their child. Douglas’ beloved Epiphone Riviera guitar was broken in the accident that claimed his life, and it was Ellis who made the arrangements to have it repaired. It was such a beautiful gesture. Our hearts go out to the Kell family. Terry and Craig Wiegel
Rene, thank you for the updates. Ellis, was a friend as well as a fine musician, father and husband. I enjoyed his company and he always made me feel 'comfortable' when around him Never pretentious as what you saw was a real person, much like the Velveteen Rabbit. I shall miss him . Due to prior commitment I cannot attend the celebration of life at the Adler. Ellis and family will remain in my prayers and thoughts. God bless and peace upon Ellis' family and friends. Aaron Schaad Doyle
Prayers for your dad and family. You mentioned Dr. G,, the doctor at the Mayo Clinic taking care of my daughters C is called Dr. G. Bet it's the same doctor. May your fathers music live in your hearts forever.
My heart goes out to your family. I knew both u and your sister.from working at rocky high. Cancer is an awful disease. I too lost my son jason to Hodgkins lymphoma in 2010 at age 31. I have such love and admiration for those with cancer.they r strong and courageous. Prayers and love your way.
So sorry to hear this news today.
Your music will ever be flowing along the banks of the Mighty Miss, and ingrained in the fabric of the QC and Blues music. So much love and light. Sending love you to you and your family in this time of loss. They are not alone!
Ellis, If talent and kindness were money, you'd be a billionaire. Sending you prayers, best wishes and good mojo from Kansas. David
Ellis! I want to play some more George Harrison songs with you when you're ready and show you my new Rickenbacker 12 string. You will love playing it! When you are feeling up to it, I'll bring it over! God bless you dear friend.
There is a very high calorie boost that has 530 calories. If you can manage 2 of these, you will at least get a little over 1,000 calories per day. Walmart and Amazon sell it. Be strong! Best wishes to you and your family. Life happens now. Today is the day to cherish❤️
Ellis, remember our times at the Dispatch and the Leader. So very sorry for what's going on with you right now. I am and will be praying for your for a full recovery. It saddens me that you and your family are going thru this. But, I do believe in God and His miracles. I will be praying for your's. God bless you! Pam Knight-Baker.
Ellis, we will be praying for healing, freedom from pain and peace for you and your family. You've touched innumerable lives with your work and passion for the power of music. You are a role model for what makes a great community. I look forward to seeing you at the RME again soon! God bless.
All of us here at the River Cities' Reader, along with my family, have climbed into your corner and are sending you our prayers and well wishes. You are a leader in this community and so many of us are privileged just to know you, your music and your work. Hang tough friend.
Ellis, John Tacker here. I have a story. As you may recall, and I do most frequently, is that the first band I was ever in, albeit short lived, and I think perhaps the first band you were ever in, was together. Don't recall the name of the band. I do recall the practices with Connie Varner on the piano. The first gig ever for me, remember at that Church in Rock Island. God that was fun, and started me off to almost 13 years of playing in 5 bands, with you playing much longer, and in many more bands. We couldn't even drive. That is a memory I have never forgotten. I am so sorry to hear about your plight. You are tough, and you can tough this too. Do it just like you have the music, just know you can, and never doubt yourself. My heart and prayers are with you.