Vail Daily obituary: Ellen "Mom" Kurronen, 1921-2011
Vail, CO Colorado
Ellen Kurronen passed away peacefully on Oct. 30, one day before her 90th birthday. Born in sauna in 1921 on a family farm in Ruskeala, Finland, Ellen traveled by ship at the age of 16 to join her mother to live in the United States. She found work in New York City with a catering company, and at the first party at which she worked, actors Tallulah Bankhead and John Garfield were the guests.
Cooking professionally for others became her forte, and as she learned to speak English during World War II, Ellen remained in the New York area, where she met George Kurronen. Like Ellen, George was also a Finnish immigrant and worked as a watchmaker apprentice at Tiffany’s. They married in 1952.
George introduced Ellen to cross-country skiing, which led to their move to Stowe, Vt., where they built and managed the Scandinavian Inn. Another ski lodge in the area at the time was operated by Captain and Maria Von Trapp (the “Sound of Music” family), with whom the Kurronens became friends.
As an expert cross-county skier, George qualified for the 1960 Olympics but could not compete for the U.S. Team because he was not yet a citizen of the country. Wanting to move on, George and Ellen took their family of five children out to Colorado in the mid-1960’s, first moving to the Colorado Springs area, and eventually on to the then-little known ski town of Vail.
It is Vail where they stayed for many years as they set up the original country ski track on the Vail Golf Course, operated now by the Vail Nordic Center. During that time, Ellen worked at Pepi’s restaurant, where she became affectionately known in the community as “Mom.” Even President Ford, whom she often cooked for, referred to her as Mom.
Over the years she made homespun meals for many celebrities and Nobel Laureates, but the people who mattered to her most were her children: Irene (Marc) Luther, Jussi (Ann) Kurronen, David (Marci) Kurronen, Pete (Bobbi) Kurronen and Ingrid (Mark) Eckert. During her extraordinary life, Ellen was very proud of her 10 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. She is also survived by her loving sisters-in-law, Irma Andersen (Tucson) and Mary Rudolph (Denver).
She had a Lutheran’s strong faith in God and was ready for her homecoming with the Lord. The family wishes to thank Hospice for all their support. A remembrance service will be scheduled for next Mid-Summer’s Day in keeping with Finnish tradition.