LAND O'LAKES — She was one of those women who was everywhere, the glue that holds communities together without seeking the limelight.
Ellen A. Bean, better known to residents as Dora, died Thursday (Dec. 25, 2008) at a rehabilitation center. She was 83.
"She knew so many people in Land O'Lakes," said retired School Board member Marge Whaley. "If you ever wanted to find out whatever happened to you know who, you'd find her because she'd been here for so long."
Actually Mrs. Bean was a Chicago native, but she moved with her husband, Chuck, to Florida in the early 1950s and to Land O'Lakes in 1969. She taught at Sanders Elementary School for 21 years.
"People really wanted their kids to have Dora," Whaley said. "She was always upbeat and loving. She loved her job I think from day one."
After retiring, she helped found Little Lambs Preschool at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, where she was a charter member who also helped start the first Sunday school.
"There's a lot of paperwork you have to have and criteria the state requires," said the Rev. Gilbert Kuehn, the church's senior pastor who proposed the idea for a preschool as an outreach ministry. "She knew who to talk to and what to do."
The school opened in 1998 with six students. Today it has 140.
Mrs. Bean was associated with the preschool until she died. She also worked as a poll worker in elections, helped with numerous coastal cleanups and was president of the Lutz Land O'Lakes Woman's Club, a service organization.
She was active in the AARP and Alpha Delta Kappa, an honorary sorority for female educators, as well as the Heritage Park Foundation.
"It was just not in her not to be busy and to be giving back," Whaley said. For Mrs. Bean, "nothing was better than to be sitting and rocking a little one."
Health problems the past few years had put Mrs. Bean more on the sidelines. She was using a walker and couldn't drive her car, Kuehn said. On Christmas Eve, she was in rehab and had dinner with her son, Jason.
"She said she was tired," Kuehn said. "He went home. She died in her sleep."
A memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 24 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 20735 Leonard Road, Lutz, at a time to be announced later. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Little Lambs Preschool, c/o Holy Trinity Lutheran Church – "Dora Bean Memorial".
Kuehn said a memorial garden for the remains of those who are cremated sits right near the preschool Mrs. Bean loved. Her ashes will be buried there.