Dr. Shirley R. Ellis
Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024
It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our mother and grandmother, Dr. Shirley Rose Waycaster Ellis. Shirley peacefully departed from this world on January 19, 2024. Her loss leaves a void that will be felt by all who had the privilege of knowing her.
Shirley was born on December 17, 1944, in Hazelwood Hollow in Hampton, Tenn. She was the daughter of Theodore Waycaster and Mary Hazelwood Potter. In addition to her parents, Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, Howard Wayne Ellis, and by a brother, Roger Dale Potter.
It was at Hampton Elementary, as a child, that she began her deep love of learning. She knew that she would need to work in order to attend college. After high school, she began working at the original Gurney Burger in Hampton for fifty cents an hour. She earned just enough money to pay the fifty-six dollars for tuition each quarter at East Tennessee State University. She often did without books for her classes and opted to study the library copy of the classroom edition.
Shirley leaves a legacy of an unparalleled work ethic. She was a mentor and encourager to many. Her tenacity, grit and loyalty were unwavering.
Professionally, Shirley worked in the field of education from 1965 until 2012. Shirley’s most fulfilling years were spent in her career. She often said work was “her life” and that retirement was “for the birds.” This was because she had a strong belief in education and that EVERY child could achieve greatness! Shirley believed in her community and the schools. She encouraged those around her to continue their education.
After graduating from ETSU in 1965, she began her career as a teacher. In the 20 years as a classroom teacher, she taught at every grade level 1st through 12th grades. During her time as a teacher at Hampton High School, Shirley served as girls’ basketball, softball, track, and cheerleading coach. She completed her Master’s Degree in Administration in 1970. She was a principal at all grade levels, K-12. In 1987, she was named as Principal of Hampton High School. At the time, she was the first female high school principal in the East Tennessee area. In 1992-1993, she was named Tennessee Secondary Principal of the Year for her work at Hampton High School.
In 1993, Shirley earned her Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from ETSU. She never ran away from challenges and urged others to be brave and resilient. From 1994-2006, Shirley worked as Secondary/Vocational Supervisor and Director of Federal Programs and System Wide Testing. After serving for over 40 years in education, she was named as Tennessee School Supervisor of the Year in the State of Tennessee in 2004. Over the years, she taught as an adjunct faculty member at Tusculum College and East Tennessee State University and on many SACS Committees. She worked several years for the State Department of Education in Nashville and two years as Director of Schools for the Carter County School System. She was the first female director since 1891. She loved her community and spoke highly of Carter County and the schools while visiting other parts of the state.
Shirley was a follower of Christ and enjoyed her years at Beck Mountain Baptist Church and as the church treasurer. She also attended First United Methodist Church of Elizabethton. Her greatest blessing in life was becoming a mother to her son, Wayne, and a grandmother to twin grandsons, Jack and Wyatt.
She is survived by her son and his family, Howard Wayne Ellis II and wife Jennifer and grandsons Jack Kyte Ellis and Wyatt Pierce Ellis.
A private interment was held at Happy Valley Memorial Park Mausoleum of Peace.
Shirley leaves behind a legacy of servant leadership. She was loved very much and will never be forgotten. Our hearts are heavy with grief. She is resting now in eternal peace, and may we find comfort in our memories and the time we were blessed with her.
Shirley was a generous person to those in need. It was her wishes, in lieu of flowers, for donations be made to any Carter County School of your choice. Donations that are made through the school principal or school counselor may be used to assist a child with school supplies or any need that will encourage them to reach their academic goals.
Memories and condolences may be shared at www.tetrickfuneralhome.com.
Tetrick Funeral Services, 3001 Peoples Street, Johnson City, TN 37604, is honored to serve the Ellis family. (423) 610-7171