Madeleine Corley Elbert of Hendersonville, TN, age 98, died peacefully in her home on December 3, 2020.
Madeleine Elbert was cheerful, enthusiastic, loving and genuinely interested in others. Because she was a voracious reader and interested in many topics, she could talk to anyone and her eyes lit up at new information. She loved language, music, art, design, history, birds and gardening. She was accepting, encouraging and kind, which endeared her to family and friends.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut to Ames Corley and Henriette Hélène Martin Corley, Madeleine spent her first twenty years in Williamstown, Connecticut and attended boarding school for two years in France as a girl, where she perfected the language and embraced the culture. She graduated from Queens College, majoring in French, and was president of Sigma Psi sorority. She then moved to New Jersey, commuting to her first job working for the government in New York City. It was there Madeleine met her future husband Ray, a GI who was assigned to the same facility.
Madeleine and Ray were married in March 1945 and transferred that same year to Oak Ridge, Tennessee—the town created by the government as a top-secret site for atomic research for the war effort. She was one of the “Atomic City Girls” in the 1940s; reading charts at the K-25 plant while kept uninformed about the purpose of the work. At war’s end, Ray was discharged from the army and they moved to Wisconsin so he could complete a university graduate degree. A subsequent job offer took them back to Oak Ridge where they settled and raised their four children. Both were active leaders in Faith Lutheran Church, and deeply involved later with the congregations of Bethel Lutheran in Ohio and Faith Lutheran in Wisconsin.
A natural performer, Madeleine was a pioneer in early television instruction, teaching French in the late 1950s from a small broadcast studio in Knoxville, Tennessee, viewed regionally in classrooms and homes. She loved to sing in her church choirs, performing thrilling soprano solos and serving as choir director for more than twenty years.
Madeleine had many artistic interests and talents. Skilled in knitting and fine needlepoint, she was also an accomplished painter in oils and watercolor, and participated in frequent classes to hone her skills. She was gifted in design, which was evident in her beautiful home interiors and well-planned gardens. She loved getting her hands into the soil and was exhilarated by the beauty of flowers and trees. An avid bird enthusiast, she delighted in the many species that were attracted to her well-stocked feeders and birdhouses.
Ray’s work transfers took them from Oak Ridge to Middleburg Heights, Ohio, then Dallas, Texas and finally to Janesville, Wisconsin. Throughout her life she made lifelong friends in each state she lived, through her church activities, arts and gardening clubs and neighborhood socials. After Ray died, she moved often to follow children—Arkansas, Maryland, Illinois and finally returned to Tennessee to live with son Steve and daughter-in-law Marilyn. The family appreciates the extra care that Steve and especially Marilyn provided to her for the past 25 years.
Madeleine’s greatest joy was her family and friends, and she relished all the beauty of life. She is preceded in death by her husband of forty years, Raymond Elbert, her brother Joseph Corley and her sister Lois Corley Townsend. Surviving are her children Stephen (Marilyn) Elbert, Paul (Christine) Elbert, Janice Elbert and James Elbert. Her children’s love for her was surpassed only by her love and lifelong support of them. Also surviving are nine nieces and nephews who share many fond memories, nine beloved grandchildren and fourteen cherished great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Hendersonville at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Timothy Lutheran Church, 650 E Main Street
Hendersonville TN 37075-2607, allocated to the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund.