Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grandma Walton - Ellen Corby's 16th Deathaversary!

Ellen Corby
June 3, 1911 - April 14, 1999

I can't explain why I've always been nerd about The Waltons.  It might be because I've lived in major cities for my entire life and I've always fantasized about a kinder, gentler existence.

Fantasized, because in real life I'd probably get strung up for liking the mens.

On television I enjoyed a weekly escape from Detroit.  From being taken from my friendly familiar school and bussed to a horrible school with bars on the windows and security guards on walkie-talkies in the lunch room.  Being bullied, threatened and extorted on a weekly basis.  Oh wait, that happened before bussing too.  Yeah, give me Walton's mountain any day.

In the late 80's I started to write fan letters to stars.  I received some terrific letters back.  Letters from Jimmy Stewart, Lucy, George Burns...  Quite honestly, I chose a lot of celebrities who I didn't think were doing much and might take the time to reply.  So, I wrote Grandma Walton.

She wrote me back.

To have an actual connection with a "star" was pretty awesome.  I think it was some sort of weirdo validation I felt I needed.  

Now it just so happened that I've be visiting Los Angeles shortly after this exchange, and on one of the letters she wrote, was a return address label.  When I got to LA, I bought a Thomas Guide and searched out Ellen Corby's home, first stopping at a florist to pick up a bouquet to surprise her.


I went to the house, walked up the steps and rang the bell.  Nothing.  I waited a minute, rang again.  Nothing.  I decided to go back to my car and leave the flowers and a note.  The peephole opened.  "WHO ARE YOU?"  I explained that my name is Scott, I wrote Ms. Corby a fan letter and she wrote me back from this address.  I just wanted to drop off flowers for her and say 'thanks'.  I placed the flowers on the porch and backed away slowly.

As I reached the sidewalk, the woman opened the door and called for me.  She said that she had no idea who I was therefore was concerned/frightened.  I explained that I understood, and could you please give these flowers to Ms. Corby.  After chatting for a few minutes, she introduced herself as Stella Luchetta, a friend of Ellen's.  Ellen had a stroke in 1976 and had been staying with Ms. Luchetta.  She said if I were to return the next day around 3pm, I could meet Ms. Corby.  Whoa.

Funny, as I was leaving the private security WESTEC officers came speeding up the street and ran up to Stella's door.  No doubt she pushed some button to notify them that a psycho was on her porch.  Luckily I was watching this out of my rear view mirror as I was driving away.  HAHAHA.

Now here's the shitty part.  
The next day I was offered to be be shown around the LA area cemeteries by a friend.  It was my only chance.  There was no way I could get word to Stella that I was not going to be there.  I just... blew it off.

I wish I had my priorities straight.  I had no idea I'd be living in LA in 5 or so years and the cemeteries will always be there.

I felt terrible.  When I got home I penned Ms. Luchetta and Ms. Corby an apology.

This was the response.

"We were waiting - No Scott."

I still feel shitty.

When The Waltons ceased production, Ellen spent her time watching reruns, and logging them diligently in a book. She waited around, and inevitably, they would wheel her in for reunion specials. It was great to see her, because the show never could be the same without her... but she was reduced to a cameo, and mumbling a few mono syllabic lines.
A few weeks before she died, Ellen was moved into the Motion Picture Country Home, in Calabasis, CA. 

On Ellen' last day in life, Stella brought her a Cobb salad from Mirabelle's on Sunset.  It was her favorite restaurant.  Ellen ate about 3/4 of it, and decided to rest.  She sent Stella on her way.  Her last words to Stella were, "Love you."  

Ellen died later that evening, April 14th, 1999. 

She was 87. 

Ellen was cremated, and is inurned in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale.  There was no funeral, but a small memorial service attended by Michael Learned, Lynn Hamilton (Verdie on the show), a few fans, and Earl Hamner.  

Earl wrote Ellen a page of script for a Walton's scene, special for the funeral.  

It was sealed in her niche.

She also had a passion for lady bugs.   


  1. What a lovely article. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I just watched Ellen on a rerun of Johnny Carson. She was so interesting on that episode I decided to look her up on the Internet. Ran across your story. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Thanks for your personal story. I enjoyed seeing Ms. Corby as Humphrey Bogart’s secretary Ms. McCardle in Sabrina this evening. It was especially poignant as she mentions taking her mother to see the play “The Seven Year Itch” when he decides not to use the tickets. See the trivia comments on Ellen’s IMDB page where she references losing a part of herself when her real life mother passed away in the early 1960’s.