More about Sharyl…..

October 31, 2009

This is a photograph of Sharyl down at the Duck Island Hunting Club in 1973.  To many people this site is thought of as the Big Lake area.  Behind Sharyl is her cat Fritz and in the background, the Ellis family’s pet Labrador, Pet. This area consisted of a large, privately owned hunting area in the Illinois River bottoms.  The site had numerous out buildings, a main house and an olive drab clubhouse many cherished to have access to.

Often times during wet periods of the year, entry to the location had to be reached by boat traffic along the Illinois River.

After Monte became the on-site manager, sometime during 1969 and until 1974, Monte and Sharyl and their two children, Kathy and Eric, lived at this area.  More will be written about this site and its impact on Monte later.

This is a posting more about Sharyl and her sacrifices to Monte and his art.

Sharyl married Monte when she was very young.  Early on her devotion to Monte was clear.  If not for Sharyl and her later economic and unselfish spousal support, Monte’s artwork would have severely suffered.   Additionally, the Ellis family would have struggled quite a deal more without the help of many generous family members and benefactors met through their lives.

It also needs to be emphasized, several of Monte’s brothers worked at  this site and provided Monte with tremendous help in the caretaking of this massive area.

For years, Sharyl worked at the Blessman Pharmacy in Canton, IL to help make ends meet.  While raising two children, working full-time and helping Monte manage this area, it was clear what a hard worker Sharyl was.  Not only that, she was also responsible for helping Monte regarding the upkeep of this large site and the taking care of influential hunters during waterfowl season.  These hunters would arrive late in the week and stay at the clubhouse during the weekend and Sharyl would be responsible for their meals and sundries at the clubhouse.

Monte was known to tell the story of one wealthy hunter who would show his disapproval of a cooked meal by chewing up one bite of a steak, spitting it out on top of the rest of the steak and sending it back  to the Ellis kitchen.  Recall, during this time, Sharyl was a very young woman and not yet the fine cook she came to be later on.

Both Monte and Sharyl loved this location a great deal.  It was a great opportunity for Monte and an excellent learning experience in many ways for Sharyl.

Sadly, the nine-year stay at Big Lake would come back to haunt Sharyl in different ways.  For one, the cleaning of the buildings, and especially the Club House, involved contact with bird, bat and mice feces.  During this time frame, proper precautions were not always taken when dealing with these droppings.  Later in her life, Sharyl was diagnosed with histoplasmosis and later with Lieukeima.  Near the end of her life, her lung capacity and breathing troubles, along with the loss of her daughter to lung cancer, greatly influenced her mental strength to carry on.  She passed away in 2007.

She also recognized this nine-year period as one of the happiest times of her life and often looked back on it with fondness.  Even when thinking of the man who would spit a bite of food back on his plate when dissatisfied.

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