The death of a parent is one of the hardest things that someone will ever go through in their life. Chat show host Ellen DeGeneres has certainly experienced such a loss, as her 92-year-old father Elliott passed away in January 2018. However, after the star had recalled her final moments with her dad, she made a touching revelation.
Born in June 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Elliott grew up with his parents Ruth Elodie Martin and Elliott Everett DeGeneres. He took on the job of an insurance salesman in later life; while still in his 20s, he also wed his girlfriend Elizabeth Jane Pfeffer.
Then, some two years into their marriage, Elliott and Elizabeth had their first child together. He was named Vance, with the DeGeneres family then becoming a little bigger in January 1958 with the birth of their daughter Ellen. From there, the couple raised their two children together for a number of years – but that all changed in 1974.
You see, following 22 years of marriage, Elliott and Elizabeth got divorced. Daughter Ellen was still just a teenager at the time and harbored hopes of training as a vet in the future. After coming to the realization that she might not be suited for the job, however, the future TV star then explored various other avenues.
Ellen went out and took on a number of different jobs during her younger years, in fact. Among other things, she worked as a vacuum salesperson, a house painter, a waitress and a legal secretary. But while she now had a host of skills at her disposal, perhaps nothing could prepare the Louisiana native for what came next.
Ellen was thrust into the spotlight at a public speaking event, although she was terrified by the prospect. In an attempt to work past her nerves and deal with the crowd, then, she tapped into her humorous side. And despite Ellen’s initial fears, her talk proved hugely successful; it even opened some unexpected doors.
In particular, Ellen was asked to perform some stand-up gigs, after which she first took to the stage as an entertainer in 1981. And, from there, she slowly built up her reputation as a comic. Then a life-changing opportunity would arise in 1986, when she earned a spot on The Tonight Show – joining Johnny Carson on his famous couch.
After that, Ellen started to become a fixture on American television, turning up on Larry King Live, Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She also continued to perform on late-night staples such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.
Alongside her stand-up appearances, Ellen tried her hand at acting as well. Following her debut in the TV show Duet in 1989, the versatile entertainer then featured in programs such as Open House and Laurie Hill. However, her big break in television didn’t come until 1994.
That year, Ellen first appeared in her own eponymous sitcom, which ran for five seasons. She starred in over 100 episodes of the show, in fact, before the series came to an end in 1998. One year prior to Ellen’s cancelation, though, the lead actress herself made an incredibly bold move.
Specifically, in 1997 Ellen revealed that she was gay, with her character in the show following suit. As a result of that, the star’s on-screen alter ego, Ellen Morgan, became the first ever lead in a sitcom to come out of the closet. And despite the controversy that followed, the episode of Ellen in which its protagonist explained that she was a lesbian won an Emmy Award.
Following Ellen’s end, the star went on to appear in further TV shows, such as Will & Grace and The Simpsons. And 2003 proved to be a pivotal year for the star; not only was Ellen cast in the Pixar classic Finding Nemo, but she also scored her own daytime talk show.
Simply titled Ellen, the show has been a massive success, running for over 15 years. In that time, the host has appeared in more than 2,500 episodes while also earning a number of awards. Off that back of those achievements, Ellen has also helmed several award ceremonies, including the Oscars in 2014.
And as Ellen continued to find success on television, there appeared to be few people prouder of her accomplishments than her father, Elliott. Indeed, it turned out that Elliott was a big fan of the entertainment industry as a whole. “[My dad] loved this business,” Ellen wrote on Twitter in January 2018. “He loved that I was in it.”
On that note, Ellen made a heartbreaking announcement during her show on January 11, 2018. At that time, the residents of Montecito, California, had been dealing with some devastating mudslides that had killed over 20 people. The host was also a member of that community, but as she dedicated some time to talking about those incidents, she also touched upon something else.
“Before we go to break, there’s something else I want to talk about,” Ellen told her studio audience. “I mentioned yesterday when I was talking about all the mudslides that are going on in my community of Montecito, which is heartbreaking, I said that I had a lot going on in my life.”
“In addition to what’s going on in Montecito, I lost my dad this week,” Ellen continued. At that point, a photograph of her and Elliott appeared on the screen. “That is my dad, Elliott,” she added. “That’s me when I was… I don’t know how old I was, but I do remember that picture.”
From there, Ellen shared some touching words about her father, revealing a bit more about him to the audience and her viewers. “[Elliott] was 92 years old, he had a good long life, and he lived his life exactly how he wanted,” the host said. “He [followed the] Christian Science [movement] his entire life.”
“[Elliott] never had medicine his whole life,” Ellen continued. “[He] never went to a doctor. I never had a vaccination. We never had medicine growing up. And he lived to be 92.” After that, the host went on to speak about her father’s personality and his attitude towards other people.
“[Elliott] was very proud of me,” Ellen recalled. “He loved this show. He was a kind man, very accepting man. There was not one bone of judgment in his body.” And as her tribute continued, the former stand-up comic made a heartwarming confession.
“[Elliott] was very funny,” Ellen said. “I think my brother, Vance, and I got our sense of humor from him.” Indeed, while Ellen’s career was kick-started by her stand-up routines, Vance was initially seen as the family comic. Much like his sister, though, he has an incredibly versatile skill set.
Vance made his writing debut back in 1991, penning two episodes of the TV show Eerie, Indiana. After that, he went on to write an episode of Diagnosis Murder before joining his sister’s show in 1995. There, he made his television acting debut alongside Ellen, playing a character named Erik Matthew Marshall.
Vance went on to appear in one more episode of Ellen as a guitarist in 1997. He also lent his writing skills to the show, penning two episodes of the sitcom before moving on to other projects. Then, just before the turn of the millennium, he finally had his big break.
In 1999 Vance joined the cast of The Daily Show and went on to feature in over 100 episodes of the series. His last appearance on the program came back in 2015, as he returned for Jon Stewart’s final episode. In between all that, Ellen’s brother had also tried his hand at producing, working on the likes of Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Despite all of the success that Ellen and Vance have enjoyed, though, few could’ve predicted their rise as youngsters. Elliott, in particular, couldn’t have foreseen his children’s futures when he took his family out for a trip to Los Angeles, California, several decades ago. With that in mind, his daughter looked back on that vacation during her tribute.
“We only took one family vacation,” Ellen revealed on her show in January 2018. “When I was a little girl, we came to this lot – to the Warner Bros lot – and took the tour. And now I work on the Warner Bros lot, and I have my own stage with my name on it. So, [Elliott] was really proud of that.”
At that point, Ellen then spoke about her final meeting with Elliott before touching upon a quite incredible moment. “Before he passed away, I got to talk to him, so I got to say goodbye to him,” she said. “I left, I was leaving the building, and I looked back, and there was a rainbow over the Warner Bros studio.”
From there, a photo of the rainbow appeared behind Ellen, as she concluded her heartfelt tribute. “This is what I saw after I talked to my dad,” she told the studio audience. “And he died ten minutes later. I got a rainbow before he died.”
That incredibly emotional tribute was uploaded onto Ellen’s official Twitter page later in the day and drew a huge response. The clip has since been viewed over two million times on the social media website, having earned more than 150,000 likes and 15,000 retweets.
Additionally, Ellen’s tweet garnered over 9,000 comments from Twitter users, as people paid their own respects to Elliott. “I just recently lost my father as well,” one individual wrote. “A couple [of] days before he died, I saw a rainbow outside the hospital at a point when I felt lost and alone.”
“I truly believe it was him letting us know he’d be okay,” the writer added. “Sorry for your loss. It’s not easy losing a parent.” A few other people in the comments section recounted similar incidents following the death of loved ones too.
“It really touched my heart to hear you talk about seeing the rainbow,” another Twitter user wrote to Ellen. “After my dad died, I was really stressed and overwhelmed with handling his estate. The week I sold his house, I was really worried about it, and I saw two rainbows. May your dad rest in peace.”
And the emotional tales didn’t end there. “Ellen, I wanted to share an amazing story with you,” a further commenter said. “My mother [passed] away with stage four lung cancer. She took her last breath in my arms. 20 minutes after I left the hospital, this rainbow appeared. Under the rainbow is the hospital [where] my mother took her last breath.”
And as the tributes continued to flood in for Elliott on social media, Ellen felt the need to respond. “I’m so grateful for every comment, every message, every heart,” she wrote on Twitter in January 2018. “Thank you.” And people continued to share their kind words about Elliott over the next few months.
Indeed, several people left messages on Elliott’s obituary page on the website Legacy in order to pay their respects to Ellen’s father. One user in particular touched upon the potential meaning of the rainbow that Ellen had seen outside the Warner Bros lot. According to them, it was a “sign.”
“Dear Ellen, I am so sorry for the recent passing of your dear dad,” wrote Christine Duminiak in March 2018. “But I am thrilled for you that he immediately sent you a ‘sign’ from heaven in the form of a rainbow.” On that note, Duminiak explained what the “sign” meant to her.
“Rainbows are one of the 20 common signs we receive from our loved ones to let us know they are in heaven, yet still a huge part of our lives,” Duminiak continued. “May you feel God’s loving and comforting arms wrapped around you during this sorrowful time.”
And as the tributes continued to pour in for Elliott, there was one more comment on Legacy that really seemed to strike a chord. “I’m very sorry for the GREAT LOSS of [Ellen’s] dad,” wrote Christine Oakhem. “If that rainbow wasn’t a sign from him, I don’t know what is. R.I.P Elliott.”
“Thank you for the gift of your loving daughter Ellen,” Oakhem added, “who spreads her gift of laughter [and] brightens up my spirit with her wit and comedy. God bless you.” And given the outpouring of support since Elliott’s passing, Oakhem appears to not be the only one to feel that way about the daytime host.
Following her tribute to Elliott, Ellen continued as normal with her show, which remains a fixture in the daytime television schedule. Since then, she’s been nominated for a number of awards in 2018, including both a Primetime and a Daytime Emmy. And after all these years, the host continues to thrive in the business that her dad adored.