Submitted by Ward Melville Heritage Organization
On July 6, beloved resident of Head of the Harbor, educator and friend, Ellen Rappaport, died at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
After graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in biology in 1965 and a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1967, Ellen went on to pursue a career as a science librarian. After her career as a science librarian for pharmaceutical companies, she became a certified library media specialist and educator in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District, where she worked for over 30 years.
She was devoted to her Stony Brook and Head of the Harbor community where she lived for more than 50 years. Ellen’s passion was connecting with people. This was evident through her frequent walks within the community and beyond.
“Our roadside chats were a fixture in my workday,” said Katharine Griffiths, executive director of Avalon Park & Preserve. “Ellen was truly a woman about town, almost always traveling by foot in the village. … Ellen was spry, spirited and dedicated to her causes. Everyone at Avalon sends our deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones.”
Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, also met with Ellen on her daily walks around Stony Brook Village Center.
“[She] loved to walk,” Rocchio said. “I met her on one of her walks which sometimes took her as far as Port Jefferson. After my first encounter, I looked forward to seeing her. I discovered her thirst for knowledge, which she would impart to others. She loved life … always looking forward, never back. Other people she met while walking felt the same way. Ellen had an infectious smile, and when she was going to tell a joke she would get a twinkle in her eye and you knew the punch line was coming. Always making others smile. She was a beautiful person inside and out.”
Over the years Ellen frequently collaborated with the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s education department. Her dedication to education shined when she would don authentic 18th-century clothing at the WMHO’s historic properties for students and visitors. She guided WMHO’s Youth Corps in planning its annual Santa Fund, a program that raises money to purchase presents for local families in need, foster children and women in recovery from substance abuse. She volunteered every year.
The Stony Brook Cancer Center remarked that, “[We] lost a pillar of the community when Ellen Rappaport passed away. … She will be fondly remembered for her smile and willingness to tackle any assignment to support the success of the Walk for Beauty fundraiser. … She was a shining example of passion, energy and creativity and she will be deeply missed.”
Ellen was always looking for ways to connect members of the community with one another. In her efforts to do this, she reached out to the St. James Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. Through her creative thinking, she suggested that the Center have their patients create artwork to sell at their Fall Festival to raise funds for Walk for Beauty. The patients “have been so proud to create and donate their works and be an important part of Walk for Beauty’s fundraising efforts year after year,” said Maureen Ingram one of the directors from the center.
Danielle Snyder, director of therapeutic recreation echoed her sentiments, “[Her] contagious smile, enthusiasm and joy for life … Her love, energy and the pep in her step lit up our hearts and every space we were blessed to share with her.”
For over 15 years Ellen served on the board of Walk for Beauty — an annual walk that raises funds for breast cancer research at Stony Brook University. Suffolk Country Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she will remember her as “an incredibly kind and passionate person. Her altruistic nature was evident for all to see … her big smile and her kind words of encouragement … Ellen’s absence will be felt throughout the community.”
Another member of the Walk for Beauty board, Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said that, “She was always brimming with ideas on how to make the walk even better and tried to include different community groups in the work. Ellen was a kind and warm person who always had a smile and a positive word to share.”
Ellen projected only positivity and thoughtfulness to the people around her — she had an innate gift that made you understand that you were important, and that you had something of equal importance to offer to the world.
She is survived by her daughter Stacey Rappaport and son-in-law Craig Solomon of Ridgewood, New Jersey; her son Hartley Rappaport of Long Beach, California; her grandchildren Eli and Audrey; her sister Lois; her brother-in-law Michael; her sister Myra and her other brother-in-law, also named Michael. Ellen remained devoted to her late husband Stephen until her last day.
Ellen asked that donations in her memory be made to the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, organizations to which she devoted many hours and through which she shared her love of history, reading and educating young people.
For more information about the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244 or send an email to [email protected]. More information about donating to the Children’s Book Committee Fund at Bank Street College of Education can be found by calling 212-875-4540 or emailing [email protected].
Ellen also requested donations in her memory to Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider to victims of gender-related violence, and Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, her daughter’s congregation, which always welcomed Ellen with open arms. Sanctuary for Families can be reached at 212-349-6009 or [email protected]. For more information about donating to Barnert Temple call 201-848-1800 or email [email protected].