Local videographer seeks to raise awareness following personal tragedy
The late Lisa Ellis with Nathan Bedford during the Christmas holiday.
BY PATRICIA KELLER WEST MILFORD - Local videographer Nathan Bedford, of Highlander Productions, requested that a letter seeking to raise awareness and donations for the National Eating Disorder Association, be read at the Feb. 26 Board of Education meeting in honor of his girlfriend who passed away only a few weeks prior due to complications related to an eating disorder. Feb. 25-March 3 was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Board Trustee Will Cytowicz read the letter aloud, as Bedford continued to manage the video camera, struggling to hold back his tears of grief as the words he wrote were shared with the public. Bedford is the person behind the camera that provides the ability for public live-feed viewing of Board of Education meetings via Livestream, as well as video recording of local government meetings and other community organization meetings and events that are broadcast on Public Access Channel WMTV 77. Bedford suffered a heartbreaking personal tragedy on Tuesday, Jan. 8, when his girlfriend of nearly nine years, 31-year-old Lisa Anne Ellis, passed away suddenly. The cause of death was due to complications from “walking pneumonia” in her body, which was already weakened by her long, private battle with an eating disorder. “I was unaware of her struggle with her eating disorder. Lisa's eating disorder was a secret to me, but it did not define her," Bedford said in the letter. "Although it was a part of most of her adult life, like many who suffer from eating disorders, she didn't make it public; either feeling ashamed or not thinking it's a problem.” According to her obituary, Lisa Ellis graduated from James Caldwell High School in 2005, then earned her Bachelor's Degree from Montclair State University in 2009. She previously worked as an elementary school teacher, then continued her education at Essex County College where she pursued a career in Radiography. She was employed at the Consumer Product Testing Company in Fairfield at the time of her passing. “Two days before she died we had our usual Sunday coffee dates, where we made plans for our future together," Bedford wrote. "We had hoped that by next year we would be financially stable enough to settle down and get married.” Bedford, along with Ellis’s family and friends, plan on walking to raise awareness and donations for the National Eating Disorder Association in memory of Lisa. Her older sister, Megan formed a team in her name, “Lovely Lisa”, for the National Eating Disorder Association Walk scheduled for Sunday, April 7 at the Brookdale Park in Bloomfield. The team is currently collecting donations to help the organization raise awareness of eating disorders, assist those at risk through prevention methods, and provide support, treatment, and access to quality care for those struggling with the disease. According to the National Eating Disorders Association's website, its 2019 theme, "Come as You Are," highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and its goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. In particular, "Come as You Are" sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid, according to the organization. It invites everyone, especially those whose stories have not been widely recognized, to have the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others. "We aim to start conversations with a variety of communities that struggle at comparable rates to those traditionally thought of as struggling with eating disorders," the organization said on the site. "We hope to offer them an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies. So this NEDAwareness Week, come as you are, not as you think you should be.” For more information about eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website at: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org For more information about the Montclair, NJ NEDA Walk on April 7th in Bloomfield, New Jersey, visit: #NEDAWalk or go to: https://nedawalk.org/montclair2019. To sponsor Bedford and his team in this walk, visit the Montclair NEDA link above, then click on the Team name “Lovely Lisa”, then choose “Nathaniel Bedford” listed under the Team Roster to make your donation.
Below is a copy of the letter that School Board Trustee Will Cytowicz read on behalf of Nathan Bedford at the Feb. 26 Board of Education meeting: “Members of the West Milford Board of Education, audience members in attendance and to the audience watching this meeting on either Livestream or West Milford 77, I'm the man behind the camera who films the Board of Education meetings for the past few years. I would like to bring to light a cause and issue that has impacted me greatly and tragically. This week is the National Eating Disorder Association Awareness Week, and I come before to tell you a story. Seven weeks ago, my girlfriend of almost nine years, Lisa Ellis, died suddenly after complications due to “walking pneumonia.” Lisa died in her sleep on Tuesday Jan. 8 of this year. I was unaware of her struggle with her eating disorder. Lisa's eating disorder was a secret to me, but it did not define her. Although it was a part of most of her adult life, like many who suffer from eating disorders, she didn't make it public; either feeling ashamed or not thinking it's a problem. Lisa thought about others more than she thought about herself. She was bullied in school, because she was deemed too pretty. Lisa was a beautiful, smart, caring, funny, and intuitive young woman. She loved her family, animals [mostly dogs], a Dallas Cowboy fan, and a fan of the New York Yankees. She was a great artist, creative, spiritual, loved and practiced meditation. She enjoyed taking me to new cafes, restaurants, movies, and walks in the park. She lived in West Caldwell, New Jersey, and I didn't mind the commute. Two days before she died we had our usual Sunday coffee dates, where we made plans for our future together. We had hoped that by next year we would be financially stable enough to settle down and get married. She was hoping to go back to continue her education at the Essex County College in West Caldwell, to pursue a career in Radiography. Thirty million Americans struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And despite the prevalence, eating disorders receive significantly less funding than other major mental illnesses, and support options are often inaccessible. Lisa had a few stays thanks to her family's support, both in-patient and out-patient treatment at centers like the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. She tried very hard to beat this disease which is one of the most deadly mental health disorders, as evident by her tragic passing. Her older sister, Megan, formed a team for the National Eating Disorder Association in her name on Sunday April 7 at the Brookdale Park in Bloomfield New Jersey from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. as Her family, friends and myself plan on walking in her memory. We're currently looking for donations to contribute to the National Eating Disorder Association so others who struggle similarly can receive the help with prevention, treatment, and access to quality care. Whether the Board wishes to make a donation as a whole, or if individual members wish to donate I have the website: https://nedawalk.org/montclair2019; our team is Lovely Lisa. Any amount donated is greatly appreciated. I plan on talking to other local entities, organizations, businesses and individuals to support this fundraiser. All donations are tax deductible. In conclusion I hope that I have provided awareness on this mental issue with my own tale. Since Lisa's passing I have tried to deal with the grief of losing the love of my life by being active, especially when I learned about her eating disorder, with fundraising for the National Eating Disorder Association. I know she would be proud that her memory and story will continue on in helping others. If you would like more information you can visit the website: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, by visiting the Facebook page, or Instagram using key words: NEDA or #NEDA. Or you may talk to me directly. Thank you for your time and support. Sincerely, your friendly neighborhood videographer, Nathan Bedford, Highlander Productions”