For a man diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Eugene “Gene” Elleman remained positive and optimistic throughout his final days.
He once wrote: “If Lou Gehrig was the luckiest man on earth, I surely must be second.”
Gehrig, who played 2,130 consecutive games with the New York Yankees, retired when he was 36 and died one year later. In 1939, he delivered his iconic “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech at Yankee Stadium.
Elleman, a Hamilton native, died Jan. 24. He was 80.
He grew up on the family farm outside Eaton and showed cattle at the county fair during his youth. He graduated in 1960 from Dixon-Israel High School and in 1965 earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Ohio State University.
He and his wife, Fran, began their lives together in Canton where he worked for Timken Roller Bearings. When the company asked Elleman to manage its plant in Johannesburg, South Africa, Elleman, his wife and their two sons, Mike and Steve, spent three years there, going on several safaris and traveling internationally.
After the family returned to the U.S., Elleman took a position as a project manager with various NASA subcontractors in Cleveland. He retired in 2008 and returned to Hamilton.
He served as vice president of the Butler County Ohio State Alumni Club and taught GED classes.
Elleman loved to travel and maintained an adventurous streak even into retirement, enjoying white water rafting, zip lining and indoor skydiving. He also played tennis and closely followed OSU football and basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Guardians.
He participated in the Men of Integrity group at Crestview Presbyterian.
He is survived by his wife, Fran; sons Mike (Barbara), and Steve (Jennifer); and grandchildren Nicholas (Liz), Alyssa, Benjamin, Abigail and Natalie Elleman; siblings Kathryn (Chuck) Wadlington, Carolyn (Phil) Kuhn; and Larry’s wife, Barbara Elleman; sister-in-law Iris (Rabbi Gary) Atkins; nieces, nephews and friends.
A memorial service, followed by a lunch, will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Crestview Presbyterian Church, 9463 Cincinnati-Columbus Road, West Chester, followed by an interment of ashes at Mound Hill Cemetery in Eaton.
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