Richard A. Ellis, 94, of Bala Cynwyd, an ophthalmologist, philanthropist, and athlete, died Sunday, June 2, of respiratory failure at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
From the mid-1950s until his retirement in 1999, Dr. Ellis practiced in Center City and Bala Cynwyd, and performed eye surgery at Wills Eye Hospital. Through a charitable trust, he endowed the Richard A. Ellis Lecture at the Wills Eye Hospital Annual Conference so that leading doctors could share their knowledge.
He also taught at the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and did research relating to examination of the eye that was published in 1964 in the Journal of Workplace Health and Safety.
Dr. Ellis was the son of Morris and Paula Ellis. He graduated from Overbrook High School and St. Joseph’s College. A skilled athlete, he played varsity basketball at Overbrook and St. Joseph’s.
Rather than follow his older brothers, Harold and Aaron, into the family’s hosiery business, Dr. Ellis trained at Thomas Jefferson Medical School, graduating in 1949. He served a residency in ophthalmology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
After his residency, he spent four months performing cataract surgery for the disadvantaged in India and Pakistan under the direction of missionary doctor Ronald Holland. Dr. Ellis made a movie of his experiences that was shown in world culture classes across the nation, his family said.
In 1949, Dr. Ellis married Gilda Rand Mann, daughter of Fredric R. Mann, the U.S. ambassador to Barbados from 1967 to 1969 and an arts impresario for whom the Mann Center is named. The couple’s wedding in the Bellevue-Stratford was attended by then-rising political stars Richardson Dilworth and Joseph S. Clark Jr., both of whom would become mayor, and Gregor Piatigorsky, a noted cellist who performed for the guests.
Until he was 90, Dr. Ellis enjoyed playing tennis on a home court with a group of men he called his “boys.” The group included D. Walter Cohen and. Morton Amsterdam, both leaders in the Philadelphia dental community.
He also spent hours teaching tennis to daughters Jane E. Gitomer and Eve Ellis. Eve went on to play professionally and coach tennis at Columbia University. Jane told her father that her love of tennis was one of the greatest gifts he gave her.
“He was a prince, a gentle gentleman, and the most outstanding father a daughter could ever have,” his family said in a tribute.
In addition to his wife, Gilda, and daughters, Jane and Eve, he is survived by daughters Marsha Ellis and Susan Ellis, and three grandchildren.
Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at Main Line Reform Temple, 410 Montgomery Ave., Wynnewood. Interment is in Roosevelt Memorial Park, Trevose.