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Ellie Caruthers is a Colonial Beach Treasure

Residents and visitors to Colonial Beach often walk the shores of the Potomac or prowl the town’s antiques stores looking for treasure. But Colonial Beach’s real treasure is a whip smart 87-year-old, independent-minded woman with a big heart, named Ellie Caruthers.


“She is a treasure,” said Lonnie Phillips, the owner of the CB 7-Eleven, who has known Caruthers for more than 40 years. “You look at this lady, and she loves life, and she’s always doing so much for others.”

“I am one of the Depression children,” said Ellie. “I was born in Asheville, NC. My Daddy was a brick mason, but during the Depression, he lost everything- the car, the house, the money in the bank. So he came to D.C. and got a job with the government, the WPA.”

In Washington, D.C., Roy Crary labored to get back on his feet and finally was able to send for his wife and two daughters. “My Momma got on a train with two little girls and we went to D.C. I said,‘Momma, how will Daddy find us?’ But when we came into Union Station, he was right there,” said Ellie.

“Times were hard,” said Ellie. “But when you grow up like that, you get pretty tough. Daddy just always worked. Momma made all our clothes. We moved a lot because Daddy was always looking up, trying to do better for his family.”
“Because of the moves, we changed schools so many times, that one day, we came out of school, and my sister, Ruth, said, ‘I don’t know where we are.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t either, but here comes Momma,’” Ellie recalled.  Ellie Crary graduated from Anacostia High and Georgetown School of Nursing, and her family eventually settled in Bowie, MD.

Ellie’s father became a builder, and eventually started his own business, which frequently worked for the government. His company built the inaugural platform for General Dwight Eisenhower’s swearing in as President of the United States. “We had never had a vacation,” recalled Ellie, who was working as a nurse at DC General Hospital.

“Daddy got a contract for work in Dahlgren, and he rented a cottage in Colonial Beach for our family,” Ellie said. “That’s where I met Doc Caruthers, right here on the beach.” Herbert V. “Doc” Caruthers was operating Doc’s Motor Court, the first motel on the Colonial Beach waterfront, when he met the young nurse who was visiting with her parents and sister.

“We went out a few times,” Ellie remembers.  “I went back to nursing at DC General; Doc was running the Motor Court, but we wrote letters, and he called a few times. And in 1951, we were married.”

Today, Doc’s Motor Court at 11 N. Irving Ave., is operated by Ellie Caruthers as it has been for 63 years now. Doc Caruthers got into computers, worked at Dahlgren for the Navy and built a business around his technological skills. “He knew all about computers,” said Ellie.

“Anybody in town who got a computer called Doc- the Bank, the Town Hall, everybody.” Ellie lost her beloved husband in 2010, and then tragically lost her daughter, Sarah, to cancer this year. As a result of Sarah’s passing, Doc’s Motor Court did not open this year. “I plan on seeing if I can get it open next year,” said Ellie.

Because of Ellie, over the years, Doc’s Motor Court has built up a steady repeat business with customers from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe. These days, Ellie’s phone rings frequently with calls from former guests who hope to see her again and with calls from her many friends in Colonial Beach.

The mother of a grown son and the grandmother of two grandchildren, Ellie stays active with the CB Baptist Church, the Cooper Library and dozens of other projects.   During her time at the Beach, she has seen the rise and fall of the casinos, the closure of the old elegant Colonial Beach Hotel and as the recent upswing of tourism.  

“There is not anybody that knows more about the history of Colonial Beach,” said Lonnie Phillips. “She is a true inspiration to all of us.”

“I have met so many wonderful people,” said Ellie.  “That’s what living in Colonial Beach and running the Motor Court have meant to me. You have to get something out of what you are doing, and I have gotten the enjoyment of knowing and helping lots of good people.”

 

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