Eldridge ‘Ellie’ Fillmore Photos courtesy Fillmore family

Eldridge “Ellie” Fillmore read the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram every day starting with the obituaries. He would always say, ‘They didn’t just die, they lived.”

Mr. Fillmore, a retired distribution supervisor for the newspaper who lived life to its fullest, died March 31 after a period of declining health, his family said. He was 79.

He was a respected member and former president of the Portland Newspaper Guild Local 128, joining the newspaper around 1962 and working in the mailroom.

His wife, Sharon Fillmore, said Monday that he took great pride in his work. She recalled their early years when he picked her up around midnight in the newspaper’s van and drove through Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cousins Island to drop off bundles of newspapers for the carriers.

“By the time we finished the sun was coming up,” his wife said. “We always stopped and got some breakfast somewhere and then went home. That was a lot of fun for me. … He always felt that working at the newspaper, he was doing something important by getting the news out. People needed to know what was happening in the world. He felt like it was his mission.”

Mr. Fillmore was active in the Portland Newspaper Guild, which then represented more than 200 employees at the newspaper, serving in union leadership and several years as president.

Ellie and Sharon Fillmore with Allison and Ryan Ellis at the Yarmouth Clam Festival parade.

He was remembered by former colleagues this week as a dedicated employee and union leader who fiercely advocated for guild members.

Joanne Lannin, a former reporter and guild president, said Tuesday in an email that Fillmore played an important role in the union during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

“His institutional memory and his level-headed approach to problem-solving guided us through some difficult and contentious negotiations,” Lannin wrote. “The composing department was fortunate to have him as a representative. Earnest but warm and caring, he was not only a mentor to many of us, but also a valued and trusted friend.”

David Hench, a former reporter and union leader, said in an email Monday that when it came to disciplinary issues, Fillmore worked with the employee to address the issue and identify ways the company could support them.

“His work in the newspaper’s mailroom gave him a natural affinity for the people working at the printing plant and in distribution, which was invaluable for the guild leadership,” Hench wrote. “He approached everything with a sense of calm confidence, comfortable knowing he was doing the right thing, for the right reasons. He was one of those people who seemed like he always had a depth of knowledge and experience while the rest of us were busy finding our way.”

Tom Bell, a former reporter and guild president, said Mr. Fillmore had a lot of integrity.

“He was the kind of person who was respected by everyone, both workers and managers,” Bell said in an email.

Mr. Fillmore retired around 2008.

Ellie Fillmore with his wife, Sharon.

He was a loving husband for 46 years. The couple lived in Portland’s Rosemont area and raised one daughter, Allison Ellis of Westbrook.

Ellis spoke fondly about the days her father brought her to the newspaper when it was located on Congress Street in downtown Portland. She reminisced about walking through the underground tunnels that connected the newspaper to the printing press. Ellis said she thought he had the coolest job.

“It was magical,” she said. “We could see the dark room. We got templates from the printing press. I remember going to Sea Dogs games with him. He gave firm handshakes and looked people in the eye. I remember him getting phone calls at home from people who needed my dad’s help. I remember that feeling that whatever my dad does, he matters. He cared so much about helping others.”

Mr. Fillmore had a passion for traveling and a sense of adventure. His wife noted trips to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and to Disney World in Florida.

“Whenever he got somewhere, he wanted to see and do everything,” his wife said.

Ellis asked her father recently what his most favorite trip was. She said his response was visiting the city of Petra in Jordan and being baptized in the Jordan River.

Mr. Fillmore’s faith was paramount in his life. He served as a lay pastor at Raymond Hill Baptist Church from 1986-88. He also served as a deacon at First Baptist Church in Portland.

“He was a strong Christian,” his daughter said. “For him, everything came down to his faith. He read his bible every day.”

Mr. Fillmore endured a years-long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis and fought squamous cell skin cancer.

Ryan Ellis, of Westbrook, said no matter what his father-in-law was going through, he always made time for family, and had an impact on many people, including him.

“He was very genuine,” his son-in-law said. “One time, Allison couldn’t pick me up from work. He was going through cancer treatments and not feeling well, but he came and picked me up anyway.”

His daughter said Monday that he was a great father who encouraged her to pursue her dreams in life.

“He was my rock. He was always very intentional,” she said. “I could tell him anything. I would go sit on the edge of his bed and have a heart-to-heart with him. I could always do that with him.”


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