John M. Ely, Jr., of 203 23rd St. NE, died Friday, March 30, 2007, in St. Luke's Hospital from complications following surgery. Memorial Service: 4:00 P.M. Sunday, May 27, 2007, at Peoples' Unitarian-Universalist Church by the Rev. Marlene Walker. Cedar Memorial Grant Wood Chapel is in charge of the arrangements. Inurnment: Oak Hill Cemetery in the Ely Family Mausoleum.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Shirley Ward "Polly" Ely, his children, John M. Ely III Connie of Anamosa, Martha Ely Goralka Joseph of Antioch, California, and Nathaniel W. Ely of Madison, Wisconsin, and two foster children, Charles M. Hudson of Iowa City, and John Thomas of Tucson, Arizona. Also surviving are five grandchildren, Elizabeth Ferring-Olson Gary, John T. Ferring Leah, Vikki Ely-Fee Kenneth, Sarah Ely-McCollum Gregory, and John Isaac Ely. There are twelve great-grandchildren.
Mr. Ely was of the fourth generation of one of Cedar Rapids' pioneer families. He was born February 17, 1919 in Cedar Rapids, the son of John Montague Ely, Sr. and Laurel Sullivan Ely. He graduated from Franklin High School, attended Coe College, the University of Iowa, and graduated from Princeton University in 1941. He married Shirley Ward on June 20, 1942 in Worcester, Massachusetts. John served in the Merchant Marine from 1942-1945 and worked for the Quaker Oats Company in Cedar Rapids as a purchasing agent until his retirement in 1984.
John interested himself in local, national and international political and social issues. He was a lifelong civil rights activist. While serving in the Iowa State Legislature, from 1961 to 1969, he sponsored the bill to repeal the Iowa Death Penalty 1965 and co-sponsored the Fair Housing Bill of Iowa. In addition he was instrumental in establishing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. He was an advocate for world peace, social justice, equality and diversity. He was co-leader of the Moratorium March of 1969. In later years John was a citizen-lobbyist with RESULTS, appealing to Congress for micro-enterprise, free education for primary schools in developing countries, and the Global Health Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. He was formerly on the board of Planned Parenthood, the Visiting Nurses Association, and was President of the Oak Hill Cemetary Board, as well as being active in the United Nations Association, the Hawkeye Chapter of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, the Iowa Railroad Passengers Association and the YMCA. He was a member of the NAACP, the Peoples' Unitarian-Universalist Church, the Cedar Rapids Rotary, the Cedar Rapids History Center, and had previously served on the board of the Inter Religious Council of Linn County. He was a tireless and dedicated humanitarian.