Ella Dene Stewart Yahnel went to our Heavenly Father on January 3, 2023, surrounded by her two children, Mingo and Keera, at the age of 69. During her final few weeks, she found peace with her twin sister Ila through care and love of shared stories and experiences.
Ella Dene was born on December 29, 1953, in Moab to Harrold and Edith (Black) Stewart. She was the fifth child in a family of six. Her siblings were Donald, Kay, Karen, Ila (her twin), and Joyce.
She was married in February of 1971 at the tender age of 18 to Robert Joe Gritts in Moab. They proceeded to have a family of three children: Mingo Joe, Eli Spencer, and Keera Mariah Gritts.
Dene was born with music in her soul. It was her life, passion, and her gift to the world. She loved sharing her musical abilities, especially with struggling kids which often gave them a new outlook on life. She loved putting on concerts and showcasing their artistic talents. She spent many hours as part of the Musical Theater of Moab at Star Hall. She held one annual concert locally and she had a studio that taught vocal instruction and dance. She eventually had 500 students all over the West.
Moab was her home and she was proud her ancestors helped establish it. She loved the red cliffs of Moab that always gave her strength, often quoting the “red dirt of Tara” speech from Gone with the Wind, yet referencing Moab instead. Every time she had to move, she would put on a farewell concert because she felt like it was the last time she would ever be in Moab.
She started singing opera professionally in 1987, performing Handel’s Messiah and Omio Babbino Caro with the Utah Opera and Symphony Company. She sang all over the West from California to Texas and was offered world tours, but was unable to accept due to a mother’s priority for her children. In every city she moved to, she joined the metropolitan opera companies singing dramatic soprano, and was always the understudy for the Prima Donna.
For most of her life, she was a stay-at-home mom but in 1990 she became a single working mother. She worked as a hospice worker and taught line dancing to the elderly. She had a GED, but continued her education every chance she could get through outside resources. She was also a published poet with work in 6 books, and wrote 3 yet-to-be-published children’s stories.
She was an excellent bareback rider and as a teen was being trained for Olympic swimming. She was captain of the cheerleading squad and on the drill team during her high school career.
She married the love of her life, Robert (Bob) Yahnel, on October 15, 2004, and they were sealed in the temple in 2018.
Dene was preceded in death by her husband, Bob; her parents, Edith and Harrold; her oldest and only brother, Donald; and her baby sister, Joyce.
She is survived by her sons and their children, Mingo Joe (Brandy) Gritts and his children Veda, Ezekiel, Willow, and Sant King; Eli Spencer (Tabby) Gritts and his children Kyha, Kelsey, Josh, Echo and Xali; her daughter Keera Mariah Gritts (Jonathan Nipper) and her children Aescli and Tiger; her sisters, Kay, Karen and twin Ila; and numerous aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins.
Please join us in her final farewell concert on January 28 at 11 a.m. at the Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery followed by a celebration of life luncheon with family, faith and food and extra butter and extra vanilla at the Moab LDS Church (475 W. 400 North) at 12:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests making donation to Ella Dene Stewart Yanel Funeral account at Mountain America Credit Union. You may send condolences to the family at www.spanishvalleymortuary.com.