While Ellen Tabor served faithfully in Korea for 20 years as a medical missionary beside her husband, some of her most recognizable impact came after the couple returned to North Carolina.
Myrtle Ellen Dennis Tabor, 90, died March 10 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem after suffering a heart attack and stroke.
“I knew Charles and Ellen Tabor soon after their return from missionary service in South Korea,” said Delores Thomas, former Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) president, on a tribute wall for Tabor. “They often joined our WMU-NC Executive Board for devotionals and updates. We were so thrilled when she began the Baptist Nursing Fellowship in N.C. and then saw its establishment nationally. Ellen was a humble servant, and much loved.”
A native of Albemarle, N.C., Tabor received her first degree at Mars Hill College (now university) and started nursing at North Carolina Baptist Hospital (now Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center). After she married Dr. Charles Gordon Tabor, the couple served at Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital in Pusan, South Korea, for 20 years through the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). The couple also served Macau.
After returning to America, she pursued education and service as a nursing professional. She earned a doctorate in education.
She helped found Baptist Nursing Fellowship (BNF), an organization that started Feb. 12, 1983. She became BNF’s first president at the national meeting in Oklahoma that year.
BNF provides continuing education, missions opportunities and fellowship for Baptist nurses serving in the U.S. and on mission fields around the world. Tabor served on the board of the WMU Foundation.
In 2012, Tabor was honored as WMU-NC’s recipient of the N.C. Baptist Heritage Award at a ceremony in Greensboro.
“You are being recognized today because of things that you have done for the good of humanity, and because of your love for God and for the advancement of the work for his kingdom,” said Milton A. Hollifield, Jr., executive-treasurer director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), at the ceremony in Greensboro, sponsored by the BSC and the N.C. Baptist Foundation (NCBF).
Tabor attended the September 2018 meeting of BNF in Talladega, Ala. She was among 50 participants from 16 states celebrating BNF’s 35 years of ministry.
In an interview with a WMU correspondent, Tabor said her initial dream for BNF, “which we have kept the whole time, was that we would invite nurses who have a calling from God to use their nursing skills to advance His work whether in America or on the mission field.”
“My approach is see wherever you’re working with your health skills, see where you can help that person’s life be better in managing their health and being able to live healthy lives,” Tabor said. “Also, if they do not have the dimension of spiritual health, that they will want to be connected to the salvation experience of knowing Christ.”
One of Tabor’s bankers, Katrina Love, a vice president at SunTrust Bank, had this to say: “I had the honor of serving as one of her bankers since 2010, and I just spoke with her (March 7). She has always shown extreme kindness and concern for her family, and for others. She ensured that everything was in order, and that each person she met was well. She always asked about my family, and my mother, who is 93 years old. Though I have served many clients during my 31 years in banking, she is one that has felt like family to me. I miss her already!”
Oh his Facebook page, one of Tabor’s grandchildren posted about his grandmother on March 11.
“My wonderful grandmother passed away yesterday,” David Tabor wrote. “She was an amazing woman, accomplished in so many aspects. Never shy of hard work and always kind. She helped raise a wonderful set of grandchildren, contributed so much to the world of nursing, her church, her community, local schools, too many charities to count, and so much more. She was a dedicated wife and gave so much to everyone in her life. Miss you and love you Meemaw.”
Tabor was a member of First Baptist Church on Fifth in Winston-Salem.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 69 years, Charles Gordon Tabor, who died Feb. 21, 2017.
She is survived by her sons Charles David Tabor and Dennis Gordon Tabor; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
The family will receive friends from 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m., Fri., March 15, at Hartsell Funeral Home, 522 N. Second Street, Albemarle. The funeral service will follow at 2 p.m. in the funeral home’s Lefler Memorial Chapel. Burial will follow the service at the Anderson Grove Baptist Church Cemetery at 2225 East Main St., Albemarle.
Memorials can be sent to the N.C. BNF Endowment Fund through NCBF at 201 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511-4257; put account number 089495 on memo line of your check; or the Ellen D. Tabor Endowment at BNF, c/o WMU, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.