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
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
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
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.
Article Submitted by Andy Niekamp