Mary Ellen Woodruff Sheridan
July 10, 1936 – July 10, 2022
Mary Ellen Woodruff Sheridan passed away peacefully on her 86th birthday at her country home in Praha, Texas on Sunday, the 10th of July 2022.
Mary Ellen was born on the 10th of July 1936, in Houston, Texas, to Judge Phillip D. Woodruff, Sr. and Mildred Shearon Woodruff. She attended River Oaks Elementary School, Lanier Junior High School, and Lamar High School. Mary Ellen then attended the University of Texas in Austin, where she was a member of Alpha Phi Sorority and graduated in 1958, three and a half years after she enrolled, with a degree in Fine Arts.
Upon graduation, Mary Ellen embarked on a months-long tour across Europe. While there, she bought her first car from her, a red Triumph TR3, which she cherished. In an early display of the boldness and sense of adventure that characterized her life de ella, she hitched a ride on the cargo ship that brought the car back to the states.
After her return from Europe, Mary Ellen began a storied career as a commercial artist and graphic designer. In the 1960s, while with McCann Erickson’s Houston office, she worked on numerous high-profile projects, including Esso’s renowned “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” branding campaign and its extension to Exxon’s domestic retail operations.
In the early 1970s, Mary Ellen opened her own commercial graphics studio. She named her one-person firm “Ink, Inc.” Over the next two decades, she delivered a range of commercial art and graphic designs to clients in both the arts and business communities. Her work by Ella for Rice Museum Houston and Rothko Chapel included projects in which she worked closely with one of Houston’s great arts patrons, Dominique de Menil. She also did creative work for multiple Jack Nicklaus golf course developments, including The Hills of Lakeway near Austin, Texas and Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. To this day, multiple organizations in the Houston area and elsewhere still display Mary Ellen’s logos, corporate signatures and other designs.
In the 1980s, after her children grew older and more independent, Mary Ellen began to turn her attention away from the busy environments of Houston. With her long-time ella and best friend Julia Bintliff and Julia’s mother Lorene Brenner as partners, she founded Tres Brisas Ranch. Mary Ellen’s piece of the operation was a picturesque patch of one hundred and thirty acres in Praha, Texas, approximately one hundred miles west of Houston.
Mary Ellen thrived in the country. Over the course of more than fifty years, she oversaw the construction of a large barn, cattle pens, feeding troughs, a farmhouse that she would eventually make her home, horse stables, a roping arena, and other facilities needed for a working ranch. Tres Brisas’ activities included the raising and breeding of Black Brangus and other cattle breeds, as well as competitive roping horses.
But Tres Brisas was more than just a business. Over time, the property became her home where she tended to big gardens, little gardens, marlin houses, ranch dogs, country cats, and other personal loves that brought her and others great joy. Mary Ellen was a great cook, and food from her gardens made her way into everything from homemade spaghetti sauce to Thanksgiving stuffing.
Creativity was always Mary Ellen’s calling card. Whether it was commercial graphics, home building, interior design, playing music, singing and lyrics, storytelling, or the written word, she could do it all-with a competency and flair she few could match. Her musical talents were especially catalytic. Anyone who knew her well understood that when her Ella Ukulele came out, it was a time for songs, laughter, and unique fun.
Mary Ellen leaves her two sons, Robert H. “”Trey”” III of Charlotte, North Carolina and P. Douglas Sheridan of Houston, Texas; her two grandchildren, Robert H. “”Bo”” Sheridan IV and E. Mason Sheridan, both of New York, New York; five nephews and numerous grandnieces and grandnephews. She is preceded in death by her parents of her; her sister, Carolyn W. Golden, and her brother Phil D. Woodruff, Jr.
On this past Tuesday, the 19th of July, the family gathered for a private interment at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery followed by a memorial service in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, both in Houston.
In lieu of customary remembrances, her family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in honor of Mary Ellen be directed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
Please visit Mary Ellen’s online memorial tribute at GeoHLewis.com, where fond memories and words of comfort and condolence may be shared electronically with her family.
Smart, engaging, funny, energetic and fearless, Mary Ellen was truly one of a kind. She will be greatly missed.
Published by Houston Chronicle on Jul. 24, 2022.