A Family Funeral Home

Ellen R Cardwell

April 11, 1942 - December 19, 2021
Racine, WI


Life Story / Obituary


Ellen R. Cardwell, age 79, died after a long illness on December 19. Ellen was born in New York, the daughter of the late Albert L. and Libbie (nee: Schnitzer) Greenspan.

As everyone who knew her agrees, Ellen was a “force of nature.” After Connecticut College, she lived in Vermont where she became active in state politics, especially concerning the environment. In her twenties, she ran for the Vermont State Assembly. While she did not win, she remained unsinkable. She worked as an environmental consultant in Vermont and later in Washington for both the E.P.A. and the Department of the Interior. She privately consulted. She later became an “events manager” for a range of organizations, especially NGOs. She was, indeed, an “events manager” all her life.

She met her husband of thirty-eight years, the late Larry Cardwell, when they were both in D.C. Both Ellen and Larry were particularly active in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill. She founded and directed the St. Mark’s Players—a theatre group that came to have a large following—was very active in the church chorus including its international performances, and in a range of hands-on educational initiatives grounded in the church.

When Ellen and Larry retired to Racine, they continued to be active in the First Presbyterian Church, the Choral Arts Society, the Racine Arts Society, and a range of other community organizations.

Ellen was thus, above all, an activist and an artist: dancer, singer, painter, actor, playwright, composer, director, producer, producer, and producer.

Ellen is survived by her son, Adam Reiss of Montana, and her brother, Henry Greenspan of Michigan. Her sister, Carol Greenspan, preceded her in death.

The family wishes to express special appreciation to Tina Schemming of Racine, a long-time home aide for both Larry and Ellen on whose dedicated care we have all relied.

Due to Covid, services and remembrances will take place when we can safely gather. Memorials to Connecticut College, the Racine Vocational Ministry, the Choral Arts Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, or to a charity of your choice have been suggested.