Donald's Story

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Donald J. Ely, 83, of Sunbury, Teacher, Clergyman, and State Committeeman, died on March 13, 2017.

Donald J. Ely was born in Frederick, Md., on July 15, 1933, the youngest of the seven children of the late Rev. George K. And Jennie (Boyer) Ely. His father, a native of Fleetwood, Berks County, Pennsylvania, began his ministry in Mount Pleasant Mills, Snyder County, in the congregation in which the future Mrs. Jennie Boyer Ely served as organist-pianist.

Donald Ely was educated in the public schools of Frederick, Md., Salisbury, Pa., and Baltimore, Md. He graduated from Gettysburg College with honors and departmental highest honors in political science, earning his A.B. degree in June 1955. He graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1958 with a bachelor of divinity degree and was ordained on June 15, 1958, as a minister of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. He served congregations in Riegelsville and Ashland before being called to serve the Augusta Reformed Pastorate, near Sunbury, in 1964. He left the Augusta Parish in August 1974 to serve Salem United Methodist Church, later Salem Independent Brethren Church, in Middleburg. He was the pastor of the Middleburg Church for nine years.
Less than two years after he arrived in Sunbury, he launched a second career in the field of education. He began his teaching career in Shikellamy High School, Sunbury, in January 1966 and served for 32½ years before retiring in June 1998. He met his future wife on the high school faculty and their three children graduated from Shikellamy High School. He taught history and government, specializing in civics, honors civics, and Congress.
He was both a wrestling and basketball fan, serving as vice president and then for 14 years as president of the Fastbreaker Basketball Booster Club until November 2001. He helped to organize the Young Republican Club and served as adviser to the club from its inception in 1987 until 2002. During most of these teaching years he continued as a pastor until he had completed 25 years in the active ministry in 1983.

On Aug. 27, 1967, he married the former Lois Jean Kirkpatrick, a school teacher and Sunbury native. They have three children, Kathleen, Stephen, and Yvonne.

He was active in community affairs and was involved in politics. He served on the Board of Directors of the Sunbury Area Y.M.C.A., beginning in 1966, and when the Greater Susquehanna Valley Y.M.C.A. was organized in 1993, he became a member of both boards. He served for many years as Board Secretary and Chairman of the Nominating Committee. From 1971 until 2002, he was chairman of the Annual Y.M.C.A. Breakfast.
He joined the Sons of the American Revolution when he was in his 30's and served as president of the William Maclay Chapter for seven terms. He served as Chaplain of the Maclay Chapter from 1970 until present. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was a member of the Northumberland and Snyder counties Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society.
He was a member of the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce and later the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce. He was an active member of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee. He belonged to the Susquehanna Valley Country Club.
He joined the Northumberland County Historical Society in 1969, served as a trustee from 1972 to 1983, and became a life member in 1975. He also took out memberships for his children, beginning when his first child became a life member in 1978. He joined the Snyder County Historical Society in 1974, served as its president from 1980 to 1983, during which time the Society Headquarters Building was dedicated. He became a life member of the Snyder County Historical Society in 1981. His older daughter became a life member in July 1981 and his twins in December 1982.
He also was a member beginning in 1972 of Masonic Lodge 22, F. & A. M., and of the Williamsport Consistory. He belonged to the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Rolls Royce Owners' Club.

Donald Ely was active in politics. From 1954, when he became eligible to vote, he never missed a primary or a general election. As a young man he was a member of the Mount Vernon Republican Club of Baltimore, a group of conservative Republicans which almost unanimously supported Senator Robert A. Taft for President over the more moderate General Eisenhower.
While in Riegelsville, he was a member of the local Republican Committee. He became a member of the Northumberland County Republican Committee in 1987 and a member of the Republican State Committee in 1992 and never missed a State Committee meeting. He was active in efforts to support Republican candidates on the local, state, and national levels.
He joined the American Conservative Union in 1965, probably the oldest conservative political group in America. He became an active participant in the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1975, a year after it was organized, and witnessed its rise to the largest conservative gathering in America. He missed only three of its meetings since its founding. He has been a member of the Federalist Society since the middle 1990's. He joined the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists in the 1950s, when the fledgling group was organizing a chapter on the Gettysburg College Campus during his time there as a student, and saw it evolve into the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
In addition, he is a member of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.; the Commonwealth Foundation of Pennsylvania; and Pennsylvanians for Effective Government.

He was preceded in death in the middle and late 1960s by his parents and his two older brothers, George B. Ely and Obed B. Ely; and in November 2002 by his sister, Dr. Geneva Faith Ely; in September 2005 by his sister, Elinor Ely; Sarah Ely in December 2006; and in June 2009 by his sister, Eunice Ely Smith.

He is survived by his wife, Lois Kirkpatrick Ely; his three children, Kathleen Ely Lybarger, of Selinsgrove; Dr. Stephen Ely and his wife Herta, of Easton, and Yvonne Ely Renaud, of Mechanicsburg; granddaughters, Olivia Lybarger and Sophia Lybarger; grandsons, Luke Lybarger, James Renaud, Ethan Renaud, Patrick Renaud, George S. Ely, and Stephen S. Ely; Sandra Smith Kastel, niece, of Virginia Beach; Philip Smith, of Maryland, and Cindy Smith Leist, of Florida.

A viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 24, at First Reformed Church of Sunbury. The funeral service will be conducted in First Reformed Church, Second and Chestnut streets, Sunbury, by the Rev. Jonathan P. Albright, the Rev. Janna Born Larsen, and the Rev. Dr. Dietmar Plajer on Saturday, March 25 at 11 a.m. with a viewing preceding the service at 10 a.m.
Interment will be in Pomfret Manor Cemetery, Sunbury.

Funeral arrangements are by the Jerre Wirt Blank Funeral Home, 395 State St., Sunbury.
Published on March 18, 2017
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