John Merrill Ely

Nov. 22, 1948 - Jan. 1, 2019
John Merrill Ely, Nov. 22, 1948 - Jan. 1, 2019

John Ely of North Haven died at Stony Brook University Hospital on Jan. 1 of leukemia. He was 70 and had been ill since July.

Mr. Ely spent summers as a child in East Hampton. He moved to Sag Harbor in the 1970s, working as a landscaper and then opening a sports equipment store. He later worked in New York City in advertising, handling accounts for Xerox and Rolex, after which he worked in advertising in Connecticut and Florida, winning several awards, his family said.

He was born on Nov. 22, 1948, in New York, a son of John Merrill Ely and Marian Salveson Ely. He grew up in Bronxville, N.Y., and came to East Hampton in the summer, where he fished, canoed, hunted, and sailed, which he also did in Westchester. He continued to fly-fish here throughout his life.

He attended the Stony Brook School as a boarding student and graduated from Bronxville High School, where he was on the football team. After attending Clark University in Massachusetts for two years, Mr. Ely earned a B.A. at the New School for Social Research in New York.

He was married first to Pamela Dunham of Connecticut, with whom he had a daughter, Amanda Dunham Ely of Brooklyn, who survives. The couple lived in Sag Harbor for 10 years until their daughter was almost 3, when they moved to Wilton, Conn. The marriage ended in divorce. He and Anne Mittendorf were married in 2005, although they lived apart in recent years.

After his advertising career, Mr. Ely taught English literature and writing as a live-in master at the Stony Brook School before moving back to the East End, where he lived in Sag Harbor, Springs, and finally North Haven.

His family said he had been active here in an effort to stop ferry service between Lazy Point, Amagansett, and Connecticut and then between Sag Harbor and Connecticut. He belonged to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, where he served on various committees. 

Ms. Mittendorf, with whom he had attended services at St. Luke’s regularly, called him a poet, adding that he loved art, movies, and literature, particularly of the American South as well as South America. She said he was an accomplished chef and enthusiastic traveler, having spent last winter in Italy. 

He “loved his extended family of cousins, nieces, and nephews, and counted himself exceptionally fortunate to have a wide circle of wonderful friends,” Ms. Mittendorf said.

In addition to Ms. Mittendorf and Ms. Ely, two brothers, Randolph Thor Ely and Allen P. Rogers, both of Florida, survive. A brother, William Ely, died before him. Three stepdaughters and eight step-grandchildren also survive.

Mr. Ely was cremated. His daughter is planning a celebratory memorial for February.