Ellen Friedman, age 58
Ellen Friedman - wife, mother, grandmother, friend, businesswoman, education advocate - died on June 8 at home, surrounded by her loving family. She was 58 years old. Her motto was “Love is all there is” and she embodied that ethos in every action, every day. She died from cancer one short week after celebrating her life with 200+ family and friends.
Ellen grew up in Palo Alto, moving with her family to San Francisco, where she attended the Urban School. After graduating high school at the age of 16, she attended Sonoma State University where she met her future husband, Danny Matula. They married, built their home in Kenwood and raised two children, Sky Matula and Sierra Matula. She was a super mom and created a family that are the best of friends. She has been an active grandmother since her three year old granddaughter, Kaia, was born, spending cherished time with her each week.
Ellen was passionate about all things pertaining to children. She was the kind of person who could pick up a crying baby and he or she would immediately stop crying and look at her with wonder. She spent a lifetime nurturing and caring for others – as a young babysitter to a family of five, as a childbirth instructor and midwife, as a second mom to many of her own children’s friends, as a confidante and friend to almost all who crossed her path. Ellen served for 15 years on the Kenwood School Board where she was honored to be part of a team that worked to foster quality education for the young people in her community.
After her children entered school, Ellen joined her husband in their business, The Hot Tub Store. She soon took over leadership of the company and grew the 40-year-old business into one of the largest hot tub retailers in the world. She managed the business with a gentle, kind, and empowering demeanor. Her leadership was recognized nationally and the company earned numerous awards. While proud of the company’s achievements, she was most proud of her relationships with her employees and with colleagues from all over the country.
More than anything, Ellen was dedicated to her family. She never missed an opportunity to give a hug and a kiss and say, “I love you.” She and Danny have been together for 41 years and she loved spending time with him exploring the world, gardening, and entertaining. Ellen and Danny loved to cook together and took great joy in having people over, including most of Danny’s third grade students, to share a meal, conversation, and laughter.
Ellen’s health declined rapidly at the end of May, due to aggressive cancer. A celebration of her life was quickly planned for June 1. Over 200 friends and family members traveled from all over the world to Kenwood to be with Ellen and her family that day, to listen to her speak and sing, to share their love and memories, and to celebrate her life.
On June 8, she died peacefully at home surrounded by her loving husband, son, and daughter. A small, private ceremony was held on June 9.
Ellen is survived by her husband Danny Matula, son Sky Matula, daughter Sierra Matula, son-in-law Alan Sun, granddaughter Kaia, her son’s beloved Sheila Elo, mother Ann Friedman, and brothers Michael Friedman and Dan Friedman, along with many other relatives. She will be missed by all of her friends and family.
Memorial donations may be made to the Ellen Friedman Memorial Fund at Exchange Bank, 2416 Montgomery Dr. Santa Rosa, CA 95405. The fund is established with a dual purpose: to provide scholarships for Kenwood School children with extreme financial need – to help them to experience outdoor education programs or music and arts programs that they would otherwise not be able to experience with their peers; and secondly to present recognition awards for compassionate, dedicated, humanistic health care to outstanding healthcare providers in honor of her oncologist, Nicolaj Andersen, MD. Donations may also be made to Memorial Hospice, 439 College Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401.