Bryson City, Ellen Kilgannon, age 61, passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 20, 2022, at a friend’s home, surrounded by love, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
A native of New Jersey and a Swain County resident since 1988, she was a daughter of the late William and Lorraine Rey Kilgannon. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by two "heart pets," her dog, Junebug, and cat, Loomis.
Ellen was a true Renaissance woman, well-known for her skill as a residential painter and passions for the outdoors, travel, and animal welfare. She received an associate’s degree in Fashion Merchandising at Brandywine College where she played softball as a catcher. After college she worked for a time in administration at Playboy magazine in New York City. In 1987, she hiked the Appalachian Trail and discovered western North Carolina. She returned the following year to work for the Nantahala Outdoor Center where she was employed for 11 years, taking a 1-year hiatus to work construction in Kealakekua, Hawaii. In the 1990s, Ellen participated in hand-building her authentic log home with the help of friends and family. Ellen served as Executive Director of P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter in Bryson City from 2004-2013 and, upon her retirement, was named co-Grand Marshal of the town Christmas parade in honor of her efforts. Just prior to onset of her illness, she had begun work as a muralist, with her love of nature transcending into her art.
She enjoyed backpacking, cycling, and paddling, embarking frequently on "sub-24" overnights and on multi-day trips whenever time allowed. Another favorite was wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park where she attended field seminars on wolves and mountain lions.
Ellen is survived by her partner of 22 years (married in 2008), Deborah L. Allen; sister, Joan Glunk, of Freehold, New Jersey; brother, Kevin Kilgannon, sister-in-law, Tamsin, and nephew, William Brady Kilgannon, all of Lebanon Township, New Jersey; dogs, Jackson and Rags, cats, Wally and Beebo; and many close friends.
The family would like to express their gratitude for the immense support of Ellen’s community of dear friends throughout her illness.
A celebration of Ellen’s life will be held in the springtime.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Advocates for Animals of WNC, PO Box 495, Sylva, NC 28779 and the Julia Hunt Endowment, nccommunityfoundation.org.
The care of Ellen has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Waynesville.