Psalm 23:1-4 KJV The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for though art with me. (Ellen's favorite scripture)
Ellen Roberts was born on June 30, 1939 in Monrovia, Liberia West Africa to parents Martha Sherman and James Roberts. She took her final bow and departed this earth on January 8, 2019. Ellen grew up on Carey Street in Monrovia with her mother, Martha and grandmother Mrs. Cornelia Greene Monger who was the sister of Mari on Greene Major and Janet Greene Buckle (a nurse who subsequently owned the property that housed Salvatore Restaurant on Broad Street). Also included in the household were her sisters Jocelia and Esther. Ellen's father died when she was young.
When Senator Lawrence Mitchell of Sinoe, the nephew of Cornelia Greene Monger, came to Monrovia, he took Ellen's oldest sister, Jocelia with him to live in Sinoe as his daughter. It then became "Ellen and Esther" from that point onwards, doing everything together and dressing alike on Sundays. In those days, kids had to stay together and one could not do anything without the other.
At a very early age, before they could even read, their mother, Martha Sherman took Ellen and Esther by the hands and led them to the Presbyterian Church on Broad Street. Martha would take them to church in the morning and then take them back in the afternoon for Sunday School.
The family's regular supply of food came by sailboat from Sinoe County - plantain, rice, banana and dried fish, courtesy of Aunt Mari on, the sister of Ellen's grandmother. During those times, when the boat from Sinoe arrived at the Waterside, the boat man would go to their house on Carey Street and inform the family that their food had arrived. Household members would then accompany the hay man (head man in charge of boat crew) to Waterside to get the food. All the plantain and bananas would be extremely ripe because of the long journey from Sinoe to Monrovia. Esther recalls "As a result, for the next three to four weeks, our grandmother Cornelia fried plantain, made rice bread and cooked every variation of plantain for us to eat, until we started to look like fried plantain."
Their grandmother and mother would then buy products in Monrovia and send them back by boat to Aunt Marion in Sinoe. This exchange be tween the two sisters occurred over and over - and this is how the two sisters and their families in Sinoe and Monrovia lived over the years - by bartering.
At one point, their mother decided to take Ellen and Esther to Sinoe to meet their Grand Aunt Marion whom they had never met. There were no local airplanes or roads at that time so they travelled by sailboat. Because the boat had no covering, they were exposed to the elements. The rain would beat them all night and the sun would burn them all day. The lightning would strike and the thunder would roar. At night, there was total darkness on the water and I mean the Atlantic Ocean. Their clothes would be soaking wet during the rain, then stay on them until the sun dried the clothes on them. The boat boys would fish and cook fish soup and rice for the passengers to eat every day. People often got sick. They had to throw up overboard because there were no facilities.
They then continued the journey to Sinoe where they met their Sinoe relatives including the Greens, Mitchells, Roberts, Majors, Mongers and Maysons, to name a few. Although they had a good time, the boat ride back to Monrovia was equally as grueling. When Ellen returned to Monrovia, they never went back to Sinoe again.
Ellen attended elementary school at St. Theresa's Convent, after which she attended Bromley Mission, a boarding school on the St. Paul River near Clay Ashland. Students included Roseline Cooper, Judy and the Marsh sisters, Emily and Florence McClain and Eudora Nassau. After graduating from Bromley, Ellen then went on to the Episcopal High School in Robertsport, Cape Mount County and lived at the House of Bethany. Nurturing seemed to come easily to Ellen. Even as a child, the parents would sometimes ask her to become the "Godma" to their children on the mission (boarding school). Ellen would bathe them, dress them, feed them and just "mother" them. This was one of the recurring themes throughout her life.
Ellen was joined in wedlock to Robert Davis. That union was blessed with their children Renee and Robert (Bobby). The marriage was eventually dissolved.
She obtained a job at the Disbursing Office with the Treasury Department here she remained for many years. Ellen was doing quite well in Liberia and had already built her own house while still in her twenties. She exemplified the belief of Phillippians 4:13 that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." As a single parent, an independent, determined and strong minded Ellen moved to New York in the United States on January 5, 1969 to provide wider opportunities for her children. Her children Renee, Bobby, William and Teetee accompanied her by air and sea. Ellen's own "my cous" Roseline Dennis Cooper strongly encouraged her to move to the Washington DC Metropolitan area. With her husband Chauncey, Roseline went to New York and packed up Ellen and her children, then moved them by U-Haul to their home in NW Washington DC.
While her children went to school in the United States, Ellen pursued higher education. She persevered, was tenacious and had a positive attitude towards life itself. She earned a degree in computer science and obtained a job at the Department of Education, then Geico where she worked for many years until she had a very serious fall which left her disabled.
Ellen worshiped and served at Grace Episcopal Church for about fifty years. She served on the alter guild, then would hurriedly go downstairs after the Sunday service and help feed people during the Fellowship Hour. She also volunteered in the church's thrift shop.
Partly because her tendency to be a nurturer, Ellen was blessed with lifelong friends of every age. Her residence in Maryland was often a refuge for family, friends and friends of friends. At times she did not even know that family members were coming to live until they popped up unannounced and knocked at her door. This was most especially true during Liberia's civil war. As children, many of Renee, Bobby, Miatta and Teetee's friends and relatives came through, some of whom spent many summers -including Bindu and Soni Dennis and Eric and Chris tine Sidifall. Ellen's friends also spent time during the summers, one of the family's favorites being Ma Martha Johnson, whom she knew from way back when, in that ole Presbyterian Church.
Needless to say that with all the girls spending time and spending the summer, the boys and young men in the community soon followed. At a certain point in time, Ellen sent for her mother Martha, whom we all affectionately called Old Lady. Ellen and her mother Martha also took care of Pam and Peter Johnson on a daily basis. By the time all the kids left at the end of summer to return to their respective parents, they had new clothes, all given to them by "Aunty Ellen." You see, she was family oriented.
Many remember Ellen as a protector and a fighter for what she thought was right. Motima George noted that when his mother died, his Aunty Ellen was there for him and fought for him in more ways than one. One of her nieces told the story of how her Aunty Ellen told her point blank, "I will talk about you, but will not let anyone else talk about you!" Her niece Miatta recalls that at one of the most dire points in her life, she told her Aunty Ellen, "I was looking around for you, just knowing that you would stand up at any moment to defend me. Ellen was a warrior! Fearless!
In her latter years, she enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren Robbie and Nylla. She was thrilled at the progress they made in school and proud of their accomplishments. Fall ma, as Ellen was affectionately called by the younger generation, also loved spending time with Bill, Naz, Ben, Nazarene, Pudding and Betty. She loved them deeply and considered them her family. It was not her style to serve as a surrogate for anyone. Her feelings ran deep and true.
As outspoken and frank as Ellen was, she found a way to make it work with her daughters-inlaw Jackie and Sybil, wives of William and Bobby. She did not refer to them as her daughters-in-law, but her daughters. As tough of a critic that Ellen could be, she seemed to enjoy Sybil's cooking. When Sybil would call to ask her for recipes, Ellen would say "You got to chop it, chop it, chop it!" We all know that no one could touch Ellen's cooking. No one even came close! Her rice bread! Her corn bread! Her jeloff rice, her collard greens or her bitterleaf. She was a wiz in the kitchen! And talk about cleanliness! It was an obsession with her- with everything in its place! Her other daughter-in-law Jackie and Ellen had a unique relationship in that although they may have had different temperaments, Jackie spent a lot of time with and around Ellen. In the last days, because Ellen's heart had become open to Jackie, Jackie was able to do for her what she had long done for other people - help!
Ellen leaves to cherish her memory, her children Renee Muriel Davis, Robert Bobby Davis (Sybil) and William Gbolokai (Jackie), her sister Esther, her beloved grandchildren Robert Davis 111, Nylla Davis, Brandon Davis, Kema Gbolokai, William Coleman, Christopher Gbolokai, Marcella Lasannah, Jaso Lasannah, Aunty Maud Major, Cousin Abraham Sidifall, her nieces and nephews including Miatta Caine, John and Nazarene Tubman, Amos, Jocelia, John and Catherine Raney, Elizabeth, Natasha, Bill, Naz, Ben, Lofty and Jan Tubman, Cornelia, Janet and Marion Greene, Wilmot, Julius, Louis and Irene Roberts, Motima George and loved ones in the Roberts, Gbolokai, Caine, Tubman, Raney, Greene, Major, Sherman, Sidifall, Mills-Jones and Davis families.
Ellen's mother Martha Sherman, daughter Elizabeth Teetee Davis, sister Hon. Jocelia Raney, brothers-in-law Hon. John Raney and Dr. Augustus F. Caine and the Roberts children predeceased her.
May her soul and the souls of the dearly de parted rest in peace.