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Ellen Henri Hymans

October 21, 1922 July 5, 2015
Ellen Henri Hymans
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Obituary for Ellen Henri Hymans

A Memorial Service 
is scheduled 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

11:00 a.m 

at The African Episcopal Church
of St. Thomas
6361 Lancaster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA  19151

Life Story

Ellen Henri Harris was born in Monroe, North Carolina, the youngest child of John Thomas Harris and Ellen Christmas. She formed lasting and loving bonds with her siblings, John Thomas Jr. "JT" (deceased), Mary Lou and Elizabeth.

When Hen, as she was called by most family and friends, was 6 years old, the family moved to Philadelphia. She received her early education in Philadelphia public schools, graduated from Cheyney College and completed graduate courses at the University of Michigan.  She studied education, following in the footsteps of her mother, brother and two elder sisters, and became an elementary school teacher. 

Her teaching career, however, did not last very long, because a year later she was swept off her feet by an outlandish, handsome Surinam prince, who turned out to be a dentist, Dr. Vivian Louis Hymans.  He had come to the USA in 1946 for post graduate studies in dentistry in New York City, met Hen on a blind date and married her in 1948. The newlyweds were in for a great adventure because it was Vivian’s intention to start his dental practice in Aruba.

Moving to Aruba was no joke in those days for the simple fact that no one had even ever heard of the tiny Caribbean island. Hen, brave, adventurous and in love said goodbye to family and friends, followed him without the bat of an eye and off to Aruba they were.  This journey turned out to be more than an adventure, Aruba became the place where they built a grand house and created a warm, wonderful home. They lived there for thirty one years and raised their three children. Hen learned to speak Dutch, the official language in Aruba, so that she could actively engage in her children's school life. She continued to speak it fluently and was always proud to read verses from Acts 2, out loud and in Dutch, when requested for  Pentecost observances at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

After her husband Vivian died in 1978, Hen packed up her belongings and repatriated to the USA in 1979. Her children had  long left the Aruban nest for their further education and had built their lives in Holland and Philadelphia. She longed  for home, to be with her American family.  As she put it, “I miss the seasons. The tropics are no fun after thirty one years, the same old weather every day.” Hen loved the seasons, Hen loved nature: trees, plants and yes, flowers, flowers, flowers.

Picking up life in Philly, after 31 years overseas, is not an everyday challenge, but she met with it to the fullest. At the age of 57, brave and adventurous, she restarted her education career, teaching children in Head Start for another 10 years. She also returned to active membership at St.Thomas. She participated in a multitude of community classes ranging from different kinds of art to tap-dancing. She loved  most anything to do with the arts, be it a fine art museum, theater, jazz concerts or a dance performance in a neighborhood community center. Her son Pepper taught her to listen for the baseline in most all music. 

Hen was also very much a lady, a lady who enjoyed socializing, talking, dancing, drinking, and not always iced tea… Needless to say she loved to dress for all these different occasions, dressing was of utmost importance; she aimed for high fashion, yes indeed she was a lady of fashion.

And last but by no means least, she joined her so beloved Garden Club, “Our Garden Club of Philadelphia and Vicinity.” In the course of the years, it seemed as though nothing was as important or inspiring to her as tending her balcony, going to her flower club meetings, arranging flowers, winning blue ribbons (and boasting about them), tending the St Thomas church garden and preparing the flowers for the church at Easter. Every festive family occasion that needed a flower, she would be asked, or if not so demand to arrange the flowers. It gave her so much joy and yes, pride. It would happen that her daughter would give her the regular call from Amsterdam, to see how she was doing, she would reply with passionate joy, "Oh Juultje, I’m doing wonderful, my oleander has two new leaves!!"

In  June 2013, she had her first stroke. She fought like a trooper, brave and courageous to walk again, to talk again, to put on lip-gloss and to complete a ceramic class at Center in the Park. She  had recovered quite miraculously and was now given a loving home with her son Steven Ashley and his wife Sharon. In January 2014, she had a second stroke and had to move to Saunders' House for further care. This time recovery was sheer impossible, she struggled but eventually on the 5th of July found peace in the arms of her Lord.

She leaves to cherish her memory one daughter: Antoinette Juliette Hymans and two sons: Steven Ashley (Sharon) and Vivian Louis Hymans Jr. "Pepper" (Indra); three grandchildren Roos van As, Nkululeko Hymans and Summer Hymans; one great-grandchild, Merlijn Noriega-Munoz; two sisters, Mary Lou Sullivan and Elizabeth Calhoun; one sister in-law, Annie B. Harris and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.


"Lovingly submitted, The Family”

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