ALISHA FAYE ELLWOOD ODHIAMBO was born on June 10th, 1971 in Algona, Iowa. She was the first born daughter of Tom and Helen Ellwood and they all spent the first few years of Alisha’s life in Burt, Iowa and Lone Rock, Iowa. She loved chasing their dog around, taking apart her toys, giving her dolls haircuts, and singing. When she was three years old Alisha and her family all moved to the farm in Ellsworth, Iowa. She was sad to leave her friends behind but it wasn’t long before her two lifelong best friends came along -- her sisters, Shana and Hilary.
Alisha happily tried all kinds of activities growing up – painting class, dance class, softball, basketball, piano lessons, and more. She loved riding on her moped and attended camp every summer at Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp where she met her two dearest friends, Christie and Jenn. Alisha loved summer family trips to Minnesota and Canada where she had so much fun with her mom, dad, and sisters fishing and waterskiing. Alisha was very busy in high school participating in sports and drama performances but her true love was singing. She was a member of the Iowa All-State choir for three years and loved singing with the South Hamilton High School New Edition Swing Choir. She graduated from South Hamilton in 1989 and then went to the University of Iowa on an academic full tuition scholarship. She joined two choirs while there – the University Choir and the award-winning Old Gold Singers show choir. Always the girl with a song and dance in her heart, she enjoyed every moment with this wonderful singing group and met so many life-long friends. She also spent every summer during her college years as a camp counselor at Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 1993 with a BS in Psychology.
Besides having a song in her heart, she also had an adventurous spirit. She was able to go on several trips with the Old Gold Singers to Florida, Mexico, and they even performed on a cruise ship in the Bahamas. Following college she was accepted into the traveling ministry team New Vision through Youth Encounter based in Minneapolis. This musical ministry adventure took her across the U.S. (including Hawaii) and culminated in a half year tour of New Zealand and Australia. Her Youth Encounter friends were the main reason that she decided to start job-hunting in the Twin Cities. She wanted to be close to this wonderful group of people, not because she loved the weather in Minnesota. She was able to continue her musical ministry through her volunteer work at St Timothy Lutheran church by leading their worship band. Her traveling adventures didn’t stop after she came home from her ministry tour because she also traveled to Egypt, Paris, Las Vegas and more with her dear friend from Youth Encounter, Robin, who also had wanderlust.
Alisha found a job and apartment in St Paul, Minnesota and began her career at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota which lasted over 28 years. She was also the chair of the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership. Alisha’s team leader sent the following message to their team:
Alisha just celebrated her 28-year anniversary this past week, with the past 10 years working in provider quality as a Program Manager. During her time at Blue Cross, she made a significant contribution to ensure our members received the highest quality of care. She was an expert on all things HEDIS and used that expertise to develop our value-based program strategy, and guided conversations with providers around clinical quality improvement. She represented Blue Cross externally, not only with care systems, but with Minnesota Community Measurement acting as our data steward. She had a passion for Health Literacy and last fall worked to have Governor Walz sign a proclamation that October is Health Literacy Month.
Even though Alisha was busy with work, church, volunteering, traveling, and more she still found time to pursue her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from Bethel College. She eventually worked as a marriage and family therapist for Behavior Health Services, Inc. as well as working at Blue Cross. She was able to help so many people through this work that she loved so dearly.
Blue Cross was also where she met her life partner, her beloved Evans Odhiambo. Together for over 20 years, they were married before God, their family, and friends on December 21, 2014. They purchased their dream home in Woodbury, Minnesota shortly before the wedding. Alisha also became the proud stepmom to Andrew and Donovan. Alisha and Evans also had many adventures together including multiple trips to Kenya (including safaris and visits to their farmstead there), Jamaica, California, London, the UAE and more. Alisha and Evans also loved trips to her family’s cabin in Minnesota and Fourth of July parties at Carol and Doug’s cabin.
In 2004, Alisha became an auntie and she was beyond excited for her new role. Alisha loved her nephew Sam and niece Cora dearly and treasured every laugh and snuggle with them. She flew out to Washington more times than can be counted to see their musical performances, take care of them after surgery, attend birthday parties, visit the zoo and other local sights, and so much more.
Alisha always said yes to any adventure and she and Evans spent a long week in Alaska with her parents, Hilary, and her brother-in-law Jake. Alisha also traveled with her parents to Canada and Lake Vermilion. All four of the “Ellwood Girls” went on a trip to New York City and Alisha took just her mom on a trip to London. They also all traveled to North Carolina together.
Alisha and Evans’ greatest adventure arrived in November 2018 with the birth of Esther Rose. Their little girl was a blessing and a joy and filled their lives with baby smiles and love. In the spring of 2019 tragedy struck when Evans suffered a massive brain bleed. Alisha was his devoted wife, cheerleader, and caregiver throughout his rehabilitation process while simultaneously holding down her full-time job and caring for their sweet Esther. Evans was called home to God on April 27, 2020.
Alisha and Esther became an inseparable pair and loved dance parties in the living room, singing together, going to live theater, playing dress up, and so much more. Their favorite weekends were spent with Amma (Grandma Helen) and Bapa (Grandpa Tom) at the lake or the farm. They also loved visits to Como Park, chocolate cake, and snuggling up while watching movies. They had their first airplane adventure together in October to Seattle and Alisha got to take Esther on her first roller coaster ride in early February.
Alisha’s big smile, infectious laugh, listening ear, wise advice, gift of music, and so much more will be missed intensely. The world was a better place because of her, and we are so grateful to God for the blessing that Alisha was in all our lives.
We love you, we miss you, and we will see you again in Heaven.
Alisha was preceded in death by her husband, Evans Odhiambo; her grandparents, Reuben & Ruth Ellwood and Art & Hazel Okland; and her uncles, Jim and Gordon. Alisha is survived by her daughter, Esther Rose; her parents, Tom & Helen; her sisters and brothers-in-law, Shana & Andy and Hilary & Jake; her nephew and niece, Sam & Cora; her many aunts, uncles, and cousins; and her many friends who consider her more like family than a friend.
Memorial Service Saturday, March 18th @ 11am at Elim Lutheran Church, 350 4th Street, Randall, IA 50231