April 20, 1954 - December 6, 2021
Elena Beth Fails Hutchinson, beloved wife, mother, sister, and friend, passed away December 6, 2021 in Ashland, Oregon at the age of 67. Elena was born on April 20, 1954 in Walnut Creek, CA to Herman Clark Fails and Adrienne Willis. She was raised in Concord, CA with her older brother Willis and younger sister Sally. Elena made fast friends at school and at church, especially with Kimberlee Van Vliet, Elena’s best friend from second grade on. The Fails family took several multi-month trips to Mexico and Central America and Elena, Willis, and Sally came back with many fond memories of finding animalitos in seashells and being tricked by the children of local host families. Elena attended Clayton Valley High School, where she excelled in Home Economics, language, and science and worked as a candy-striper in a local elder care facility. For college, she moved away to Brigham Young University. In 1974, Elena and Tony met in an intensive “Readings in the Classics” course and spent all day with each other for months on end, reading Homer, Plato, the Bible, and all of the Great Books. Tony was taken by Elena’s intellect, quiet confidence, and sharp wit, as well as her beauty: long, shiny brown hair, clear blue eyes, fair skin, and a wonderful smile. Elena often pushed Tony to overcome his native nerdiness and told him to stop mansplaining, long before the word even existed. The two fell quickly in love and married in the LDS Oakland Temple just 9 months after meeting. Elena and Tony continued school as they started their family, which quickly included four children: Emily, Lonnie, David, and Charlie. After finishing their schooling, they headed to Washington DC where Tony pursued a Ph.D. Tony and Elena had already realized in their final years at BYU that their faith was centered on Christ in the New Testament and their acceptance of the traditional Christian Creeds. This realization, along with Elena’s feminism and Elena’s friendships with several of Tony’s Roman Catholic classmates, strengthened Elena’s conviction that God was a whole lot larger and a whole lot more loving than some would have it, and that holiness thrived in all the various religious traditions. At Elena’s encouragement, Tony joined the foreign service. The young family moved to Hong Kong in 1987, where Elena worked as a school librarian at the Hong Kong International School; to Taiwan in 1988, where Elena was the commissary manager of the American Institute in Taiwan; and to Beijing in 1989, where Elena worked as the head librarian for the International School of Beijing. When the Tian’anmen Massacre trapped Tony in Beijing and forced the evacuation of embassy families, Elena and the children spent 4 very long and uncertain months in the U.S. During her time as a single parent, Elena took all four children on a cross-country road trip to visit her sister Sally in Chicago, where the words “Stop that! You do NOT want to make me stop this car” became seared in the kids’ minds and Charlie finally learned to tie his shoes. The family was posted to Cotonou, Benin in 1993, where Elena organized all the USAID library holdings and then served as the Embassy’s Community Liaison Officer. During this time, she was able to meet dear friends JaLynn Prince and Renee Carlson for a three-week trip to London, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Capri. The family moved back to Washington DC in 1996. There, Elena accomplished her lifelong dream to complete a Masters of Library Science, attending a work-study program at Catholic University. After receiving her degree, Elena began to work full time as a children’s librarian, one of her life’s greatest passions. In 1999, the family moved to Shanghai, where Elena taught at the Shanghai International School. Upon return to the U.S., Tony and Elena formally became Episcopalians and Elena became the director the Noyes Children’s Library in Kensington, MD, where her book talks and story times were beloved by the children of Kensington and Chevy Chase, MD. In 2001, Tony fulfilled his promise to Elena to complete his Ph.D. Scheduled to fly on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Tony instead changed his flight at the last moment to have breakfast with Elena, a decision that saved his life and strengthened their marriage. In 2004, Elena finally got her diamond ring when the couple had a Eucharist of Thanksgiving for 30 years of marriage and took the Christian vows of marriage. Tony and Elena moved back to Hong Kong in 2006, where Elena worked as head librarian at the British School and supported Tony in his call to ministry. In 2009, the couple returned to Beijing, where Elena served as librarian at the International Academy of Beijing. In the summer of 2011, Elena was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and later that year, the couple moved to Ashland, OR, where Tony was called as rector at Trinity Episcopal. During her time in Ashland, Elena did the things she loved most: going to the beach with Tony, hiking and walking, quilting and cross-stich, reading and attending her book group, and visiting with and reading to her children and grandchildren. Although wheelchair-bound, Elena was able to realize a life-long dream of traveling to Australia and Indonesia to see the Great Barrier Reef. Even as her abilities changed, Elena remained buoyant, optimistic, gracious, patient, and the easiest person to care for. After attending the Thanksgiving Day Eucharist at Trinity and a joyful reunion with all of her family on Thanksgiving, Elena passed peacefully surrounded by her family on December 6. Elena is survived by her beloved husband Tony Hutchinson; daughter Emily Hutchinson; sons Lonnie Hutchinson (Kristin), David Hutchinson, and Charles Hutchinson (Marie); grandchildren Nico, Elsie, and Delia; brother Willis Fails (Simone); sister Sally Brittain (Phillip); numerous nieces and nephews; her best friend Kimberlee Staking; and countless friends around the world. Elena was preceded in death by father Herman Clark Fails and mother Adrienne Willis Fails. Elena’s funeral service and interment will be Friday, December 17, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal in Ashland, OR and will be livestreamed at www.facebook.com/TrinityAshland. The family requests that any remembrances be made to the American Library Association: https://ec.ala.org/donate.
Elena Beth Fails Hutchinson, beloved wife, mother, sister, and friend, passed away December 6, 2021 in Ashland, Oregon at the age of 67. Elena was born on April 20, 1954 in Walnut Creek, CA to Herman Clark Fails and Adrienne Willis. She was... View Obituary & Service Information
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