Dorothy "Ellen" Allbeck Maurer died June 11, 2017 of congestive heart failure caused by chemo in 1995. She was born May 28, 1941, the daughter of Frank and Winifred (Manning) Allbeck of Millville, Pennsylvania. She grew up on a multi-purpose farm that has been in her family for seven generations, 183 years, since 1834. In 1959, she graduated from Millville Area Joint High School. During her youth she had raised Hereford beef cattle as a 4-H project and used the proceeds to help pay her tuition in 1959 at Penn State University, planning to study animal husbandry so she could run a ranch out West, as she was a big fan of Zane Grey westerns. Instead, she studied agricultural journalism, which propelled her into a career as teacher, writer, editor, photographer, and international science communications consultant.
Penn State brought many life-changing experiences. Most important, she met Arthur James Maurer, Penn State's "Mr. Agriculture," who was a judge for a "Miss Agriculture" contest that she won. He scheduled many "meetings" for the two of them to plan the next year's contest! In 1962, Ellen also was among 1,000 youth chosen for President Kennedy's summer Students in Government Program in Washington D.C., where she interned with the USDA's Motion Picture Service. As part of the internship, the 14 journalism students were invited to Kennedy's press conferences in the State Department and the Rose Garden. Graduation from Penn State in 1963 brought more adventures when she was selected for a six-month 4-H International Farm Youth Exchange program to Panama. She brought back exciting experiences of horse races, scorpions in her bed, bull riding, aggressive Romeos, and a Canal Zone War as well as a lifelong passion for international experiences.
In 1964, Rutgers University hired her as the first female 4-H agent in Hunterdon County, N.J., beginning a 41-year career in the land grant university system. On June 26, 1966, she married Art Maurer and joined him in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University, where she helped teach a feature writing class. From 1968 to 1970, a Cornell/Ford Foundation grant took them to the Philippines, where Ellen wrote radio farm news and edited textbooks while Art conducted his Ph.D. research in food and poultry science. While there, she gave birth to their daughter, Minda, on Dec. 24, 1969.
In 1970, Ellen and Art moved to Madison to careers at the UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Art as a professor and Ellen as a publications editor in the Department of Agricultural Journalism. She specialized in working with "difficult" authors, drawing on her charm, patience and persistence as well as her editorial skills.
That year they moved into their Verona home. On Jan. 24, 1974, their son Brant was born. In 1978 she began teaching courses in news and feature writing. During that time, Ellen and Art worked together on a Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas educational project for poultry farmers in Nicaragua that included writing a book in English, Spanish, and Miskito as well as helping to build an educational radio station. The project served as the basis for Ellen's M.S. degree from the University, which she earned in 1981. Art and Ellen remained involved in the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of America program for the rest of their lives.
In 1984, they returned to the Philippines when Ellen was offered a Visiting Editor position at the International Rice Research Institute ("IRRI"). She produced an award-winning annual report and taught writing and other communications skills to IRRI researchers.
Back in Madison, Ellen resumed teaching but also continued her international work. From 1986 for 4 years, between semesters, she traveled to Liberia, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Sierra Leone to interview scientists and photograph their work to produce annual reports for the West Africa Rice Development Association. In 1990, The Gambia's Secretary of Agriculture invited her to produce a publication on their agricultural research.
From 1991 to 1995, Ellen served as communications director of a USAID-funded global Environmental Policy and Training project, where she produced more than 50 publications for distribution to governments throughout the world. In 1996, she became the communications director for the UW Land Tenure Center planning ways to reach developing countries about land issues. She worked as a science writer/editor/photographer in 14 countries.
In 1995, she returned to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences as a senior university relations specialist to develop information campaigns for the College, prospective students, alumni, stakeholders, and the general public. She loved brainstorming new ideas for news stories, events, exhibits, and publications. She excelled at the job, which she continued until her retirement in 2005.
She received many awards for her work including her international professional group's highest award in 1996, the International Award of Excellence. She also received the College's Academic Staff Service Award in 2005. During these years she was a 4-H leader and a Girl Scout leader simultaneously for 8 years.
The mid-1990s brought two life-shattering events. In 1995 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1998, after 32 years of marriage, Art Maurer died suddenly from cardiac arrest.
In the 1970s, Ellen and Art had joined a gourmet group that also included Pat and Ken Pippert. Ellen and Pat had chemo at the same time, but Pat died in 1995. Eight years later, Ellen and Ken discovered sparks! They were married May 10, 2003.
Together, Ellen and Ken enjoyed Februarys in Florida, a hot air balloon ride, travel in Spain, Portugal, and Germany, and a week at a villa in Tuscany with the gourmet group. In addition to hosting and visiting their six children and 11 grandchildren, they volunteered at Sugar Creek elementary school in Verona, gardened at home and spent much of their summers canoeing, hiking, and fishing at their lake cottage in Oneida Co. Ellen also authored three books on family history, Allbeck Genealogy, Snicklefritz, and Adventure in Panama. She also taught a Reminiscence Writing PLATO class at Capitol Lakes retirement center for 11 years and joined a Dean's committee to record the history of the College of Agricultural and Life Science.
Ellen is survived by daughter Minda Maurer, McFarland, Wis. and son Brant Maurer (Lori), Muskego, Wis.; stepsons Brian (Kalena) Pippert, Schwenksville, Pa.; Brad (Tami) Pippert, Thornton, Colo.; and Brett Pippert, Budapest, Hungary; and stepdaughter Brenda (Scott) Kreischer, Yorkville, Ill; along with grandchildren Marlee and Simon Dingle, Elsa and Owen Maurer, Elizabeth, Kim, and Brendan Pippert, Allison and Sydney Pippert, and Kylie and Colton Kreischer. She is further survived by two brothers: Lynn (Barbara) Allbeck, and Larry (Sally) Allbeck, of Millville, Pa.; and a special cousin, Allan Spotts, South Williamsport, Pa.
She was predeceased by her parents, and husband Arthur James Maurer.
A Service of Celebration for the life of Ellen A. Maurer will be held at 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 27, 2017, at Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, 1501 Gilbert Rd., Madison, WI 53711. A gathering in the Friendship Hall will follow the Service.
Memorials may be made to Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ Landscape Fund, 1501 Gilbert Rd., Madison, WI 53711; University of Wisconsin Foundation Arthur J. and Ellen A. Maurer Extra Mile Award, 1848 University Ave., Madison, WI 53726; or Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas Endowment Fund, Nelson Hall, Room 129, 1209 Fremont St. Stevens Point, WI 54481.
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