Cover photo for John Ellis's Obituary
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1923 John 2023

John Ellis

February 3, 1923 — May 16, 2023

Gulf Breeze



John H. Ellis, 100, of Gulf Breeze, Florida passed away May 16, 2023.  He was born February 3, 1923 in Hartselle, Alabama to the late Ruffy Haywood Ellis and the late Lillie May Betterton Ellis.  John served in World War II as a pilot with the Army Air Corps and the Korean conflict with the United States Air Force.  He then worked as a Cartographer with the US Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis where he was part of the team that produced the maps of the moon surface that were used for the lunar landings.  He continued working there on other projects until he retired.

In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his first wife, Rose Marie Cunningham Ellis; his second wife, Mary Ann Raker Ellis; and sister, Wilma Rachel Smith.

John is survived by his brother, Charles Hubert Ellis of Hartselle, AL two daughters, Dixie Anne Zumwalt of Gulf Breeze, FL and Leslie Ruth Naucke of Corinth, MS.  Grandsons George Nolte of Edgerton, WI. and Michael Nolte of  Chicago, IL. Granddaughters Erin Thomas of Costa Rica, Lillie Zumwalt of Gulf Breeze, FL; Amee  Vargas of Meridian, MS Great-granddaughter Isabella Vargas of Meridian, MS Step-granddaughters Kristine Akers of Fenton, MO Lara Lynn of Marine, IL; and many loving cousins, nieces, nephews and dear friends.

John was an accomplished artist and enjoyed traveling the world.  He began painting around age 13 when he took lessons from a professional artist who visited Neel, AL.  John made his own canvas and paints and paid $1.00 per lesson.  He gave that painting to his daughter when she  was about 13.  John continued taking classes in college for drawing, and even sold a class assignment drawing to a sausage company after winning first place in a contest.  The company used it for their logo and on their packages.

John continued painting, doing still life, landscapes, and people. He painted a mural of “The New Heaven and New Earth” on the wall behind the baptistry in Shady Grove Baptist church in Neel, AL.    John was asked by the museum in the St. Louis Arch to paint a frontiersman for their “Gateway to the West” Exhibition. His Grandson now has that painting.

He was an enthusiastic volunteer at both the St. Louis and Gulf Breeze Zoos reflecting his deep love of nature and wildlife. John and his wife, Mary Ann, were volunteer Docents at both the St. Louis and Navarre Zoos.  Mary Ann is the one who established the docent program in Navarre with John’s support.  They loved animals and nature. He was an avid gardener.  He had a vegetable garden for years, and beehives. In Florida he had a butterfly garden to help the Monarch butterfly propagate.

 John became a church member from the time he was fourteen.  He was active in the Lay Ministry Program at New Hope United Methodist Church and taught Sunday School classes at New Hope in Arnold, Mo. and Navarre United Methodist Church.  It was known as “John’s Class”.  Between the two locations of Arnold and Navarre, several people who were in his Sunday School classes became pastors.  One was John Kerns. He and John Ellis worked together doing the seasonal Beach Ministry for Navarre United Methodist Church.  Later John Kerns got his pastoral degree and grew the beach ministry to be year-round.  It is known as Navarre Beachside Church. 

There were several local and worldwide ministries and charities John was involved in both in St. Louis and Navarre. He supported them through attendance, volunteer work,  and financial contributions.

Visitation will be held Monday, May 22, 2023 at Rose Lawn Funeral Home from 12:00-1:00 PM.  Funeral services will be at 1:00 PM with military honors.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Ellis, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Monday, May 22, 2023

12:00 - 1:00 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Monday, May 22, 2023

1:00 - 1:30 pm (Central time)

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