Ellen Tillier

Thursday 2nd of November 1933 - Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Ellen Tillier


Celebration of Life

Sep 7, 2021 (5:00 pm - 8:00 pm)

Milward - Southland

391 Southland Dr., Lexington, KY

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Ellen Tillier (née Olbe) passed away peacefully and painlessly at her home September 2, two months shy of her 88th birthday.  Born in Paris, France, in 1933, she and her parents Nathan and Fernande had to flee in 1941 the German Occupation to arrive as refugees in the United States. After the war and her parents’ divorce, she returned to France in 1950 where she attended the Sorbonne (University of Paris), then went back to the States where she graduated from Carleton College (class of 1954). Afterwards, she went back to France where she studied at the University of Grenoble.

Her career included working public relations on movies such as Fanny (1961) and The Longest Day (1962) and reporting from Paris for U.S. News & World Report and Fortune magazines. She was a speechwriter and responsible for communications at the now defunct Arthur Andersen before returning to the United States in mid-1982 to join the World Bank in Washington D.C. as a Senior Information Officer. She performed missions in Africa (mainly for francophone countries) as well as in Asia. She also headed the World Bank’s external affairs program in Canada.

In 1960, she married Alan Tillier, a Paris-based British foreign correspondent. They met in Monte Carlo and lived in Vienna, Austria as well as Paris. They travelled a lot together and divorced in 1975.

The joy of her life were her two children, Paul Tillier and Anne Tillier de Castro and her five exceptional (her words) grandchildren Leo, Clara, Luke, Noah, and Max, as well as her son-in-law Dr. Fernando de Castro who watched over her until the end.

Ellen moved to Lexington in 2013 to be near her family. After an interesting but tumultuous life, she often said the years in the Bluegrass were those she cherished the most. She felt right at home in her close-knit neighborhood and with her new friends who shared her lifelong passion for playing tennis, watching classic movies, and listening to opera and symphonies. Her family around the world will miss her grace and elegance, intense questioning, and her hearty laughter.

Besides her family in Lexington, she is survived by her beloved brother Robert Briefel and his wife Marie in NYC and her equally beloved brother Raymond Briefel and his wife Sophie in Paris, France as well as her nieces and nephew, Aviva, Illana, and Simon.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, from 5-8 pm at Milward-Southland, 391 Southland Dr.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Kentucky Refugee Ministry (kyrm.org) or Bluegrass Hospice Care.  

Facial coverings will be required to enter the building.  



Guest Book

Liz Santucci


Dear Anne, Paul, Fernando, and all of Ellen’s beloved grandchildren and family, How lucky you were to have such a wonderful person as Ellen in your lives! She was a true tribute to humanity as her career and all of your lives show. She was so proud of all of you and for good reason. She knew you were caring human beings and that realized her hopes for her life accomplishments. I will miss her as the dear friend she was. We met on Lucas Lane in Bethesda and became friends immediately. Though she truly was happy in Lexington, she still remembered Lucas Lane and her neighbors of many years. She did her best to stay in touch amidst her happiness in being in Lexington, close to family and new friends. We have many happy and fun memories! I am certain Jason was there to greet her at the Pearly Gate! May she Rest In Peace. Liz Santucci

2 weeks ago

Edward Ohlbaum


Deepest condolences to Paul, Anne and her other beloved family members. Although we knew one another thanks only to the internet and telephone, Ellen was a dear friend and a kindred spirit in addition to a distant cousin. May her memory be a blessing.

2 weeks ago

iola Morrisey


With sadness I learned of Ellen's passing. Will miss her spirit and joy of life. It was a pleasure to work with her during tax time. iola morrisey, Arlington, Virginia

2 weeks ago

Brenda Stewart


Ellen was an amazing lady and will truly be missed by many. I always enjoyed chatting with her when we were in Lexington. I was deeply saddened to learn of her passing. You and your family are in our thoughts and pray.

2 weeks ago