Mr. Ellerbee

Distributive Education



Over brunch with Toni Schmid on Sunday, I opened up her Olmos and came upon the photo of Mr. Ellerbee. I was taken aback by the emotion I felt when I looked at his picture. I had many great teachers, many great educators, but the love and gratitude that I hold in my heart for Mr.Ellerbee is tremendously deep.

Mr. Ellerbee taught Distributive Education. My brothers had been in D.E. - loved and admired Mr. Ellerbee - and for various reasons advised me of the benefits of having a job and working during my junior and senior year. Mr. Ellerbee helped me to get me my first job - a great job - in the advertising department of Montgomery Wards.

Mr. Ellerbee had been a boxer, a prizefighter in his younger years - fought under the name of Jack Delaney. I seem to remember that his last fight was against Max Baer. When he left his prizefighting career he began his very successful and lucrative career in sales. He was the salesman of all salesmen - a winner always. It was due to a heart problem that he retired early and chose to teach D.E.

It seemed that many of us who were in D.E. had problems or challenges in our lives - challenges in addition to those that come with teenage, high school years. Mine was the upheaval and trauma that occurred in my family with the serious illness of my father.

What Mr. Ellerbee gave to his students was self-confidence - the tools, and the skills to help us believe in ourselves. (The hours of Dale Carnegie tapes - ugh!) He was a fighter from the get go and he fought for the self-confidence and success of his students. His belief in us was so strong, so determined and so tremendous that you had no choice but to believe in yourself. I know that in a boxing match someone wins and someone is defeated. I never did figure out how he could have been knocked out in the ring but was never defeated. He won every fight. The judges just saw things differently.

I wish everyone could have seen him in action at our statewide D.E. competitions. We were entered in public speaking, sales presentation, advertising design and other categories. Mr. Ellerbee spent countless hours working with us in preparation and countless hours in behind the scenes lobbying. In the final outcome of these competitions, it really didn't matter what the judges said, his students were the best of the best - won the competitions hands down - and you would never convince him otherwise. (If we didn't come home with a trophy, it was just another case of one more inept judge.)

I'm not sure what year it was that Mr. Ellerbee died - in the late 70s. I telephoned him to settle an issue under debate - I have no idea what the issue was - but it was agreed that he would know the answer. I hadn't spoken to him in quite awhile. A woman answered the phone and told me that he had just died of a heart attack. Oh what I'd give to hear his voice and laughter again, to see his smile and to get one of his hugs. I pray he knows what he meant in my life.

~ Laurie Murray, 2001