Her grandfather, Charles A. Pillsbury, was the founder of C.A. Pillsbury and Co., one of the great milling enterprises on the Mississippi River in the 1870s. Her great-uncle was John S. Pillsbury, a former governor of Minnesota instrumental in the founding of the University of Minnesota.
Crosby, one of six children of John and Eleanor Pillsbury, grew up in a stately mansion a block from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, during an era when the neighborhood was home to wealthy business leaders. Crosby studied at Northrop Collegiate School for Girls in Minneapolis, graduated from Foxcroft School in Virginia, and attended Vassar College. She married Thomas Manville Crosby, whose grandfather John Crosby was a partner in another historic Minneapolis milling company -- the Washburn Crosby Co. Her husband was a General Mills executive who later was a founder of what is known as Northwest Equity Partners.
Tom, who died in 1988, and Ella raised six children: Tom Crosby Jr., David Crosby, Eleanor Winston, Mary Dolan, Lucy Mitchell and Robert Crosby. In addition to her children and her brother George, she is survived by 20 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.more » « less