Jill Shanks Eliot, age 82 of Grandview Heights, died peacefully on September 1, 2019 after a short illness. Jill was born in East Liverpool, Ohio and grew up in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. For the past 58 years, she has made Columbus her home. She is preceded in death by her parents, Austin and Ila Mae Shanks, beloved husband, Don and infant daughter, Amy.
Jill graduated from Zelienople High School in 1955, received her BA in 1959 from Ohio Wesleyan University with majors in Speech and Theater, English and Education. Her career began as a children’s librarian and English teacher, but her love of theater became her passion when she began “Celebrate Kids!” in 1980 followed by her children’s theater company, The Imaginating Dramatics Company in 1985. For 28 years she poured her soul into mentoring, teaching, coaching and supporting any student aged 3-18 whether they even had the slightest interest in theater or just needed a refuge in which to express themselves.
She also worked in professional summer stock and community theatre where she considered her greatest roles to be Julie Jordan (Carousel) and Catherine Rives Emmett (wife of Daniel Decatur Emmett, The Birth of Dixie), both of which she accomplished while pregnant with her second child!
Jill received the George Washington Honor Medal and the National Freedoms Foundation Award for her work on “Celebrate Kids!” She was also chosen as one of the Outstanding Young Women in America, received the Columbus Dispatch Service to Youth Award and resolutions from both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Upper Arlington City Council for her service to youth.
Jill was a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority and Theta Alpha Phi, theater honorary. She also taught theater camps for 7 years Chautauqua Institution. She was a 54-year-member of First Community Church, past member of the FCC Chancel Choir and Chamber Singers, and soloist for many years with Vaud-Villities. She is a member of the FCC Women’s Guild where she served as publicity chair and devotions leader.
In 1992, Jill was commissioned to organize a performance group for a private reception for Former First Lady Barbara Bush at Ameriflora. She co-directed the youth choirs involved in two touring productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1995 and 2006.
Jill, with husband Don, wrote and produced 4 original musicals: Remember the Ladies, Time Treks, Together Again, and Double Jeopardy. These productions traveled all over Columbus, the state of Ohio and even to the state Thespian Conference.
She is survived by daughters Ann Eliot-Naille, Julie Eliot-Gulisano (Jamie); 7 grandchildren: Amelia and Audra Naille, Joshua, Jacob, Jesse, Josie and Jordan Gulisano, brother Jack Shanks (Sharon), sister-in-law Sally Williams, former son-in-law Brian Naille, many nieces and nephews.
A service of memory will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Ohio Wesleyan University’s Annual Fund, The Klais Organ Fund c/o First Community Church, or any children’s theater that needs financial help (and they all do!).
Arrangements completed at Jerry Spears Funeral Home with Cremation, 2693 West Broad St.
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