Editor's note: We are saddened to report that Ellen passed away unexpectedly and quietly on Saturday, Jan. 28. Our sincere sympathy to her husband, Bill, and her family.
When she was in first grade, Ellen Warren would sneak into the art room while her classmates went to recess. Ostensibly, she was helping clean the chalkboard erasers, but the teacher knew she just wanted to draw.
That introduction to art launched a lifetime of devotion to artistic endeavors and to supporting the performing and visual arts wherever she lived.
“I believe the soul needs creativity,” says Warren, a Homeland Center resident since late 2016. “The spirit needs creativity.”
Warren was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Scranton. Her father was a mining and metallurgical engineer. Her mother was a homemaker and community volunteer for “anything and everything” – American Red Cross, Girl Scouts, a local performing arts center, a health care facility.
The mother’s community spirit continued in the daughter. In Scranton, Warren was involved with the YWCA and the Everhart Museum. In neighboring Waverly, she chaired the F. Lamott Belin Arts Scholarship committee, fielding applications from artists worldwide seeking the prestigious award that helps them pursue their dreams.
“Whatever your child wants to do that is creative, encourage them,” she believes. “If it’s dance, if it’s violin, if they play the tuba, encourage them,” she says.
She moved to Harrisburg in 1988, when her husband, Bill Warren, joined the administration of his Scranton law partner, Gov. Robert P. Casey, Jr. In the capital city, she dove into a thriving arts scene. She has served as board president for Theatre Harrisburg and the Harrisburg Symphony Society, on the boards of Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Harrisburg Art Association, and was very supportive of the Historical Society of Dauphin County.
Warren is most proud of her fundraising and “friend-raising” skills that have helped sustain the arts and community causes. With the Harrisburg Symphony Society, she co-chaired its first – and to date, most financially successful -- Symphony Showcase, where local decorators display their works in a mansion, room by room.
Warren also had a long career in commercial interior decorating, helping businesses craft efficient workspaces. It started when she worked at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York City, where she haunted the renowned design and furniture floor. In her career, she has worked with the Palumbo Group in Scranton, as director of interior design for Harrisburg-area Benatec Associates, and with her own business.
All the while, Warren pursued her artistic talents, loving the immediacy of pencil on paper, or producing landscapes and seascapes in oil or acrylics.
“Three hours can go by on one painting, and I’ve no idea that time has passed,” she says. “I think most painters are like that.”
At Homeland, Warren enjoys the quarterly art exhibits. Homeland is another of her causes, with past service on the Homeland Board of Managers.
“It’s very friendly,” she says. “The aides and the nurses care about people on an individual basis.”
The Warrens have two grown children and “three beautiful granddaughters,” ages 12 through 25.
“They make me happy,” she says. “They tell me they love me all the time.”
Warren and her husband decided long ago to do most of their charitable giving locally, to help strengthen community bonds. As she learned from her mother, volunteering is “perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s part of who you should want to be in your community.”