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Ann E. "Bebe" RaceySeptember 18, 1921 ~ April 7, 2017 (age 95)
It’s impossible to sum up an entire life in a story, book or even a movie – and especially not in something as short as an obituary. That task becomes even more difficult when it comes to describing someone like Ann “Bebe” Ellis Racey, who was truly one of a kind.
Bebe was born Annie Glenn Pace on September 18, 1921, in Asheville, North Carolina, to parents Birdie “Big Mama” Newsom Pace and Burke H. Pace. She spent her childhood along with her seven siblings during the Great Depression – part of The Greatest Generation. She received her nickname from her baby sister, Emily, who couldn’t yet pronounce her name. She was raised in a colorful family. Not much is known of her father’s side except for his ties to the sketchy 1920s bootlegging scene. Her mother came from a completely opposite background with old southern ties. Big Mama was part of the Bibb and Harding families, growing up in Governor Bibb’s mansion in Alabama, closely related to President Warren G. Harding, and one of very few women at that time to attend a university.
The family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when Bebe was a small child. Her memories included playing for hours outside on the mountain, and such poverty that school lunches sometimes only meant a cracker with some ketchup and a slice of onion. The family’s milk was watered down to make “Blue John” as it lasted longer. As a result, wasting nothing was central to her life.
When Bebe was 19, one of her favorite stories was how she put on her leather motorcycle belt and helmet, which she had tooled herself, braided her hair, and rode her Indian motorcycle from North Carolina to California and back alone, sometimes spending the night beside the road in a sleeping bag.
Later, she moved to St. Augustine and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but the family eventually continued on to either Texas or Southern California. It was in California where Bebe met Robert “Bob” Ellis Jr. at work for Douglas Aircraft. They enjoyed company dances together, and eloped in Las Vegas after one in October of 1946. On her 30th birthday, September 18, Bebe gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Suzanne “Suzan” Annice Ellis in Inglewood, California. Bebe changed careers, later becoming a real estate agent and managing Bob’s run for Congress. Bebe and Bob were both very active in Los Angeles County Young Republicans at the same time as Ronald Reagan. When Bob passed away suddenly at the age of 41 due to an aortic aneurism, Bebe and Suzan remained near family in California for a time, before moving to southern Oregon.
Bebe remained interested in politics and preserving Constitutional rights – a conservative thinker all her adult life. In her later years, she was horrified at the loss of American freedoms she had seen over the decades.
On a trip in 1970, Bebe met Andrew Racey on a hunting trip to Baker County, and they hit it off, corresponding afterward about mutual hobbies and political beliefs. In 1972, Bebe married Andy, moved to Bridgeport, and began the process of putting the cattle ranch into financial order, selling her real estate in Medford to do so. At their height, the Racey Ranch ran about 800 head of cattle, which they eventually reduced to around 200 before retiring. They were the first to introduce Charolais to the area. Bebe and Andy built their own house by hand on the upper part of the ranch (the old McCorkle place), and planted an orchard behind it. Suzan’s family also lived and worked on the ranch, and Bebe taught her two granddaughters, Kerry and Kasey, how to change their own flat tires, load and shoot the .22 rifle, and catch fish.
Bebe and Andy were two of the original founders of Eastern Oregon Mining Association.
Over the years, Bebe’s generosity touched multiple households in at least three states. Her nephew Don said she had a “charity heart.” She was known to help family members without question in times of need, and was responsible for helping Black Lyon Publishing in Baker City, Oregon and Old Town Baking in Rancho Cucamonga, California initially get off the ground.
In 2014, Bebe became the eldest member of the Editorial Board for The Baker County Press, one of four generations of family involved in the newspaper.
Bebe is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Suzan and Keith Jones; granddaughter Kerry McQuisten; granddaughter Kasey Phelan and husband Nick; great-grandchildren (in order of age) Kailyn McQuisten, Savahanna Phelan, Jakob Phelan and Vivien McQuisten; many nieces and nephews, particularly Don Bishop and Michael Robert Pace both of with whom she remained particularly close; and numerous other great nieces and nephews.
She is preceded in death by husbands Robert Ellis Jr. and Andrew Racey; mother Birdie “Big Mama” Newsom Pace; father Burke Pace; siblings and their spouses Peyton (Helen), Billy, Caruthers (Nettie), Myrtle (Red), Burke (Joan), Emily (Whitey) and Allen (Vickie).
On Sunday, April 2, Bebe survived a heart attack the magnitude from which medical staff said they had never seen a person walk away. For a while, she was convinced she might even skip the E.R. and just “get over it by herself.” She was surrounded by family during her hospital stay, laughing and talking, until a second heart attack on Friday, April 7, proved too much, even for her “charity heart.” She was, as she put it, “the last of the Mohicans.” She passed quickly at 7:56 p.m. surrounded by love to the very end.
A graveside service will be held Saturday, April 22 at 3 p.m. PDT, at the Malheur Cemetery where she will be laid to rest beside Andy. Friends and family are invited to an informal gathering at the Devils Canyon Ranch upon leaving the cemetery. To light a candle for Bebe or leave a condolence for the family, please visit www.colestributecenter.com. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made locally to the Malheur Cemetery, (through Coles Tribute Center) which relies on those donations for all its care and maintenance.
Directions to MALHEUR Cemetery
From Baker City:
Go out Hwy 7, toward Sumpter, about 9 miles until you hit Salsbury Jct.
Here you will take a LEFT onto Hwy 245 over Dooley Mountain. (Going toward
Bridgeport, Hereford & Unity)
Go all the way over Dooley, at the bottom on the Bridgeport side; take a LEFT onto Bridgeport Lane.
Follow this all the way to the end where you will hit a “Y” stay to the RIGHT on Bridgeport Lane, which is paved. If you take a left it will be gravel and heading down Burnt River Canyon Road – this would be the wrong way.
Follow Bridgeport Lane about 1.1 miles until you see a sign to MALHEUR RES.
Take a LEFT here, you will now be on gravel road for the rest of the drive.
Approximately 6.8 miles from the “Y” you will see another road to the LEFT.
Sign will point to MALHEUR Cemetery.
Go approximately another mile and you will see the cemetery to the left.
(If anyone gets lost along the way, call Suzan on her cell at 541-519-0053, we think there is service at the cemetery.)