Charlotte Ellen Wilkins Wolf was born on Jan. 9, 1945, in Parsons to Daisy Ellen Farran-Caress and Charles S. Wilkins. Ellen attended schools in Parsons, graduating from Parsons High School in 1963. She attended Pittsburg State University and graduated in 1967.
Shortly after graduating, she wed James Gordon Wolf and they were married until 1980. In 1968, Ellen began working as a French teacher at Parsons Senior High School. From there, she moved into the position of art teacher and remained for the next 16 years until 1984, when she moved with her son, Jason, to Flagstaff, Arizona, to pursue new challenges.
Ellen attended classes at Northern Arizona University, obtaining master’s degrees in art education and studio art. After graduation, she was hired by NAU as an associate professor to teach classes in art history and women in the arts and as a student advisor. While teaching, Ellen continued to create multimedia art and her work was featured and shown throughout the Southwest. Her gallery representation included The Elaine Horwitch Gallery in Sedona, Arizona, Old Town Gallery in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Edith Lambert Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In 1988, she was invited to help build a robust art department at a new branch of Northern Arizona University located on the campus of Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona. During her tenure, she won numerous awards for outstanding teacher and as a student advisor and mentor. Ellen worked for NAU-Yuma until 1996 when she retired. While in Yuma, Ellen met the love of her life, Victor LaViola, a photography professor from Tucson. These two artistic spirits were partners and would remain at each other’s side until Ellen’s passing.
After retiring from NAU-Yuma, Ellen and Victor moved to Kansas City to be closer to her aging mother, Daisy. During their 17-year stay in Kansas City, her art career flourished. She was honored with a solo exhibition in the Regional Gallery of the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin and was invited to exhibit a retrospective of her work at the Carnegie Arts Center in Parsons sponsored by the Parsons Arts and Humanities Council and the Kansas Commission on the Arts. Her last Midwest showing was an invitational exhibit of three women artists at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City, Missouri. A charter member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, she served several years as a board member of the Kansas City chapter. She also sold her work and held classes at her downtown loft studio.
When Daisy passed away in 2011, Ellen and Victor began making plans to move back to Arizona to be near her son and his family. However, in 2012, after a routine mammogram revealed that she had Stage 3 breast cancer, those plans changed. Rather than moving to Arizona, the couple began a long fight against this vicious disease.
Initially given only a few months to live, Ellen went on the offensive and had a radical double mastectomy followed by long and painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments. By 2014, the cancer was in remission and the move to Tucson, Arizona, was complete. Their new home was nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains with a spectacular view that Ellen enjoyed every morning while drinking her coffee and watching her beloved birds and an occasional coyote.
While residing in Tucson, Ellen was accepted in two juried exhibitions at Tohono Chul Park and Galleries: Revisions/Outside Looking In — 2016 and Sonoran Seasons – 2018. Her juried selection for Sonoran Seasons, “It’s About Time,” was sold to a patron in California. Ellen was also a contributor in 2017 and 2018 to Tohono Chul’s annual “10x10” fundraiser.
Unfortunately, by 2016, the cancer returned and Ellen’s health began a slow but steady decline. She eventually succumbed to her symptoms on June 19, 2019. She is survived by her partner, Victor LaViola; her son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Liz Wolf; and two grandchildren, Jack and Ella.
A private service was held with family at the time of Ellen’s passing.