Today in My History
Out, Martha, She's at it Again
18 March 2020
As we were adjusting to the news of Nancianne's death yesterday, I received a note from Shelly (right) letting me know that Ellen had died. She added the above photo with this note on Facebook:
Anyone who has read this journal for any period of time should recognize Ellen and Shelly, because I have written about them many times. We've been friends for oh 30 years or so and though I had not seen them in a couple of years, for many reasons, I considered them both to be maybe my best friends in Davis.
I'm trying to write about Ellen, but things just swirl around my head in no organized fashion the way they did for Nancianne yesterday.
Ellen and Shelly have been the visible face of the LGBTQ community in this area for years, long before being openly gay was as common as it is now. I remember going with them to the county clerk's office in Woodland every Valentine's day. they, and several other gay couples, applied for a marriage license and were told, of course, that they could not have one. County Clerk Freddie Oakley gave each couple a certificate explaining why they were not permitted to marry, while groups of angry looking men stood threateningly to watch them. (They loved to stand in front of the men and kiss each other, while the police came to escort the men out of the building.)
When the landmark Supreme Court ruling struck down the ban on gay marriage and it was legal across the country, Ellen and Shelly were the first couple to be married in Yolo County, by a very happy Freddie Oakley.
I made their wedding cake. It was the third cake I'd made for them, one when Massachusetts approved gay marriage, one when then-mayor (now governor) Gavin Newsom married them in San Francisco, a marriage that was later invalidated, and then this one, which I told them was the LAST wedding cake I would make for them.
They have been active demonstrators at many rallies regarding gay issues. I joined them on some rallies regarding gay marriage, and a demonstration by gay kids marching to the capitol. We adults were there to protect the kids from the angry "Christians" yelling things at them.
One woman wrote this on Ellen's Facebook page today, "So sad to hear the news of Ellen Pontac passing. She and her wife of 46 years, Shelly Bailes, have been true heroes of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. I am proud to have marched beside them and shared in a few of our big wins. Both these women will be written into our history books and our children will read about them in school. Rest in power!"
But it wasn't only gay issues they are active in (though I believe they started the Davis Gay Pride Day celebration). They worked with meals on wheels, started the annual Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who had nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving, were active participants in any civic issue that was up for discussion. I don't know all they did, but I know that I nominated them every year for the Citizen of the Year award, though they never won.
They were friends with most of the politicians in California.
I know this is supposed to be about Ellen, but you never saw Ellen without Shelly and they were such a team in everything they did. They made significant differences in town over the years, always with a big smile on their faces.
I was never really part of their circle of friends, but I loved spending the morning sitting in their kitchen having coffee and discussing the issues of the world and hearing about the latest party they had hosted.
It still doesn't seem real to me. I can't believe Ellen is gone and I have a hard time imagining Shelly without Ellen. But I am so very glad that I shared a small part of their life. I love them both and I will miss Ellen forever.
From another Facebook entry: Words cannot express the sorrow that will be felt in Davis and beyond as word of her death spreads. You will be missed, Ellen, and your beloved Shelly is loved and supported by hundreds if not thousands Of those your work and love touched. Namaste.
Their 46 year long love was & is a brilliant beacon of humanity during dark and difficult times. They’ve shown us that hope isn’t naive — for that too, we are grateful. Rest In Peace & Power, Ellen.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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This is entry #7301