Ellen Elizabeth Barber Fonda, age 86, passed away peacefully at the Bellingham Retirement Community in West Chester, PA on July 18, 2019, where she had resided since 2012. She had been a resident of Glenside, PA for 30 years, and before that was a resident of King of Prussia, PA from 1961 to 1982. Ellen was born on July 22, 1932 in Syracuse, New York and grew up on the family dairy farm in DeRuyter, NY with her parents, George Myron Barber and Ruth Addie Warren, and her sister, Gwendolyn. She graduated from DeRuyter Central Rural School in June 1950 and attended Cornell University, graduating with a BS in Home Economics (Early Childhood Education) in 1954.
While at Cornell she met Albert Granville Fonda and they were married on December 23, 1951. In the early years much of her time was occupied caring for 5 active children and attending various school, church, and sports events in which they were involved. She was a Girl Scout leader for several years, and an active member of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Wayne, PA, including many years helping run summer Vacation Bible School in partnership with the former Seventh Street United Methodist Church in North Philadelphia.
Ellen was a substitute teacher for 5 years starting in 1969. In 1972 she began part-time studies at Drexel University and received her MS in Human Behavior and Development in 1979. She started teaching full time in 1974, in the Abington PA school district, and taught senior high home economics there for 23 years, retiring at age 65. While there she served as department head and most notably, established one of the first actual working nursery schools involving high school students and pre-school students.
Ellen was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown from 1983 until her health declined. She was a member of United Methodist Women, and worked for years with the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, aiding homeless women and children, as well as numerous other education, humanitarian and religious groups throughout her lifetime. Ellen and Albert divorced in 1983. Ellen married Michael Evio Panciotti in 2004, residing in Glenside, PA. She cared for Michael in her home his last few years until he passed away in 2010.
She was always kind and considerate to family, friends and acquaintances. She loved having a house full of children and grandchildren for holidays, birthdays and vacations. She maintained close ties with many friends and relatives in Pennsylvania, her home town of DeRuyter, NY, and scattered across the country. She loved to travel and organize trips, which was a frequent activity for the family, driving and camping in many notable places across the country. She enjoyed cats, gardening, bird-watching, visiting museums, and following college basketball.
Ellen is predeceased by her sister, Gwendolyn Barber Paris; her husband, Michael Panciotti; and former husband, Albert Fonda. She leaves behind her five loving children, David Barber Fonda, Albert Mark Fonda, Jill Suzanne Fonda Allen (Michael), Elaine Ruth Fonda Fuguet (Michael), and Janet Ellen Fonda Zorn (Mark). She will be greatly missed by 15 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful caretakers at Bellingham for their thoughtful and respectful care. Visitation will be held at 10:00 am, Service at 11:00 am, on Monday, July 29th at the Smith Funeral Home in DeRuyter, NY; interment will follow at the family plot in the Hillcrest Cemetery. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 17, at 3:00pm at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to The National Audubon Society at www.audubon.org.
- Memorial 10:00am – 11:00amSmith Funeral Home
- Memorial 3:00pmFirst United Methodist Church of Germantown
6001 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA