Ellie Schiller Obituary

Ellie accepting the RKC Honorary Membership Award
Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve, KY - August 20, 2006


Local philanthropist Ellie Schiller dies at 65

February 13, 2009

Citrus County Chronicle Online (www.chronicleonline.com)

Future generations of residents in Citrus, Alachua, Marion and Levy counties and around the world will share the legacy of a woman who enjoyed the Florida sunshine but shunned the limelight.

Elmyra Felburn Schiller of Yankeetown gave generously and often to local libraries, wildlife parks and museums in need of funds. She also purchased property needed for recreation and conservation purposes, not only locally, but nationally and internationally.

Schiller, 65, died Tuesday at her home in Pine Ridge.

“Ellie Schiller and The Felburn Foundation have made it possible for us to place two Boundless Playgrounds — one on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway near Ocala, and the other on the St. Marks Trail, south of Tallahassee,” said Mickey Thomason, area manager of the Ocala Office for the Florida Greenways and Trails. “A Boundless Playground accommodates children of all capabilities and talents. This has been a dream come true, and we could not have done it without the generosity of Ellie Schiller.”

Those who knew Ellie described Schiller as a hard-working, no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point woman who had a heart of gold.

“Ellie Schiller was instrumental in convincing her father to fund The Felburn Foundation because of the great need to fund local institutions in the Nature Coast,” said her good friend and adviser, Sam Mutch. “Ellie was proud of her humble beginning.”

She grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where her father, Phil Felburn, founded Aetna Freight Lines Inc. Felburn was able to build the firm into one of the country’s preeminent trucking companies. Phil Felburn enjoyed the outdoors, and had a number of homes. One home was in Palm Beach where Ellie boasted that some of the preeminent Florida politicians and her father worked out the restoration of the Everglades program to present to the legislature and Congress.

Schiller graduated from Erie College, Pa. She and her former husband took a world tour after graduation and stayed longer than expected in a Tibetan Monastery on the slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, north of Darjeeling, India. There she helped teach Tibetan refugee children mathematics. She also took her turn milking the yakows, the local cross between yaks and cattle.

On her return from her world tour she settled in Washington State and became a fisheries biologist for the state. She continued in that job until her mother died in 1988. She then joined her father.

She and her father moved to Yankeetown from Marion, Ohio, in 1989.

Ellie and her father noticed how small the library was in Yankeetown.

“They approached me,” the former librarian said. “They said they wanted to build a wing on the Yankeetown library. All they asked in return was that there be information available about the local flora or fauna.”

The nonprofit, natural resource, educational foundation Phil Felburn established in 1978 provided institutions within the area, Florida, the nation, and the world with millions of dollars of needed funds.

Ellie was instrumental in building new libraries in Bronson, remodeling the Dunnellon library and Cedar Key, put an addition on the Belleview library. Ellie Schiller, through the Felburn Foundation, helped build the branch library in the Ocala National Forest and the Silver River Museum library, as well as the new addition to its museum.

“Ellie Schiller and her father had a lot to do in shaping the direction of the museum,” said Guy Marwick, Silver River Museum director. “Even after Phil’s death, good things still happened because Phil’s daughter, Ellie, took an interest ensuring that the Felburn Foundation helped this area.”

The Felburn Foundation paid for the construction of a wing in the Silver River Museum to display historical artifacts. In Alachua County it helped pay for the construction of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, including its Environmental Education Center and Summer’s House. Under Ellie’s direction, the Foundation bought lands for conservation purposes in Levy, Citrus, and Alachua counties. She was instrumental in preserving Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River to protect manatees.

Schiller also ensured that worthy conservation and educational needs were met worldwide. Some of the charities and educational establishments she endowed included the Trumpeter Swan Society; Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center; Shepherd Spinal Center Foundation; Marion County Public Library; Friends of Homosassa Springs; International Crane Foundation; Horry-Georgetown Technical College; Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park; Madison Wisconsin Audubon Society; Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches; International Snow Leopard Trust; Rourk Library — Brunswick County, N.C.; Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation Inc.; Columbia Land Trust; Campbell University; International Snow Leopard Trust: Contribution to Support Research, Educational Projects and The Conservation and Preservation of Snow Leopards by the Snow Leopard Trust; Florida segment of the Whooping Crane Recovery Project; Anderson University; Avian Research & Conservation Institute; Campbell University. The western trailhead park of the Cross Florida Greenway was made available to the State of Florida, which has developed it into a wonderful recreational area, which includes Phil’s Lake, named for her father.

The Saturday before her death, Ellie’s friends honored her by dedicating the Ellie Schiller Educational Facility at Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve in Yankeetown. Ellie had made plans to attend but was too weak on Saturday and could not attend; but she was present in spirit.

Ellie Schiller is survived by many friends throughout the world because of her wonderful and unassuming personality. A memorial service will be 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at Phil’s Lake at the Trailhead Park. All of Ellie’s friends are invited.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to “Friends of Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve” in memory of Ellie Schiller for the Ellie Schiller Education Center, P.O. Box 482, Yankeetown, FL 34498.