Ellen Blackman, who served as the coordinator of the La Grande Middle School Eighth Grade Philly Trip for 20 years, looks at a Philly Trip photo album. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Ellen Blackman is a patriotic woman. Her dream was to see the Statue of Liberty before she died.
Now, she has seen the statue on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor numerous times, thanks to being the longtime coordinator of the La Grande Middle School Eighth Grade Philly Trip.
After 20 years of leading trips, however, brain surgery last October at Oregon Health Sciences University has forced her to hand over the trip coordinator mantle to Angie Malone and Annmarie Fritz.
With stroke-like symptoms, after surgery to remove a growth on the bottom lower left lobe of her brain, she faced a huge challenge: learning to walk, talk and swallow again.
Thankfully, Blackman likes a good challenge. She is recovering nicely now, eight months later, and she still has the travel bug. With husband Randy, the 64-year-old retiree has trips planned to Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean.
“You never know how much time you have left,” she said, “so when you get a chance to go, you should go.”
The Philly trip, though, will always remain near and dear to her heart.
“She hated to give it up,” Randy said. “She shed a few tears when it happened.”
With approximately 50 students going on the trip each year, over two decades Blackman helped
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