Ellen Conant, a Fishers Island summer resident for more than 40 years died unexpectedly of a heart attack on June 9, 2008 at her home in St. Louis, Missouri. She was 81.
Mrs. Conant was married to the late George K. Conant who first came to the island while a student at Yale in the early 1940’s. The Conants came to Fishers as a couple in 1964 and returned every year thereafter. In 1968 they purchased land from the late Bruce May and built their house on the point just east of the Silver Eel Pond.
While on the island Mrs. Conant was a very proficient and active golfer having won the Fishers Island Club women’s championship in 1973. She also regularly played tennis and bridge, and served on the FIDCO Board from 1992 to 2001.
Mrs. Conant was the St. Louis District women’s golf champion from 1957 to 1959. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University and a master’s degree in Urban Affairs from St. Louis University. She served on the Board of the St. Louis County Jail Visitors from 1972 to 1976.
From 1974 to 1979, Mrs. Conant directed KMOX radio’s Call for Action, a consumer-oriented, off-the-air service that matched people in the community with help they needed to solve particular problems. For more than four decades, Mrs. Conant was a force in Republican politics in Missouri. She got started in politics in 1982 when, at age 55, she upset two-term Democratic incumbent Betty Van Uum for the 3rd District seat on the St. Louis County Council. Gene McNary, who was county executive for most of Mrs. Conant’s eight years on the council, lauded her recently. “She was a dedicated and successful community leader,” McNary said. “She had tremendous impact in the County Council. Ellen was responsible for many of the homeless shelters in St. Louis County, in addition to being outstanding in all respects. She’ll be sorely missed.”
Mrs. Conant served on the St. Louis University board from 1984-1996, chairing the board’s Medical Center committee. “Ellen set the standard for women in leadership positions in St. Louis and helped shape the future of the university’s Medical Center during a period of great growth and opportunity,” said the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of St. Louis University. “She understood and appreciated the nature of Jesuit education, and truly lived the Jesuit mission of being a woman for others.”
In 1991, Mrs. Conant was president of the U.S. National Senior Sports Organization and served on the committee that organized the 1994 U.S. Senior Olympics Festival in St. Louis. During that period, she accepted an appointment from President George Bush to serve as a member of a Department of Defense committee on women in the military.
Mrs. Conant grew up in Chicago, where her family owned a steel business that became part of Inland Steel. In 1948, she married George K. Conant, who became board chairman of Rubelmann-Lucas Inc. Industrial Supplies and died in 1999.
Among the survivors are her children, all of whom are Fishers Island summer residents: her son, George Conant of Dallas and daughters Annie Schlafly of St. Louis, Lawrie Chiaro of Los Angeles, and Susie Sullivan of St. Louis. She is also survived by her sister, Mary Brown of Point Manalapan, Fla., 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Fishers was a very important part of Ellen and George Conant’s lives. They would want to thank the year round residents who played such an important role in making their stay on the island so enjoyable, their friends from Hay Harbor and the Big Club who meant so much to them each summer, and finally their children and grandchildren who helped transform Fishers each summer into a cherished family gathering place.