Ellen Okonsky, 63, passed peacefully with family at her side on July 9, 2018 from cancer and its complications. To the end, she lived her life with courage, dignity, and a concern for others. Ellen's family was joined by her mother-in-law Marie Okonsky and sister-in-law Carin Sears to rally around her following diagnosis.
Ellen was born in Boston on August 16, 1954 to Anne Violet (Ekdahl) Uram and Jerome Arnold Uram. On February 4, 1962, while her father was doing research for NIH and MIT, a plane crash in the Peruvian Andes claimed the lives of her parents. Ellen and her younger brother Eric then moved to Waukegan, Illinois, where they grew up with their mother's sister, Mary Jean (Ekdahl) Smart, her husband William Donald Smart, and their children Patricia, Rebecca, Robert, William, and Deborah. For years, Ellen and Eric returned east for summer visits with family friends, William and Barbara Weiss (Vienna, VA), and their children Robin, Linda, Heidi and Chris.
Following graduation from high school in 1972, Ellen toured Europe before studying political science and history at Northern Illinois University. After earning her bachelor's degree in 1976, Ellen moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a PhD in political theory at Catholic University. There, she learned ancient Greek in order to write her dissertation on Plato's Symposium, receiving a masters degree in 1986. Ellen held a number of jobs including furniture restoration, art installation and with the Washington Monthly.
In 1991 Ellen married Stephen Alan Okonsky in Washington, D.C. In 1992, she gave birth to their only child, Franklin Tadeusz Okonsky.
We miss Ellen's zest for life, impertinent sense of humor, thoughtful political debate, and selfless efforts to help others. She demonstrated these when she volunteered to comfort AIDS patients during the early 1980's and later doing charitable work as a literacy tutor. She followed in her mother and grandmother's footsteps, cooking flavorful, healthy meals for everyone who sat at her table. Ellen relished riding her bike at breakneck speeds, ice skating in the winter months, and engaging in fine arts and crafts - including spinning fibers, weaving, knitting and jewelry making. Using these talents and gifts, Ellen gave everyone she touched keepsakes of her that will live on.
Ellen is survived by Steve Okonsky of Silver Spring, MD; Frank Okonsky of Silver Spring, MD; Eric (Deb) Uram of Madison, WI; her sibling-cousins Patti Smart of Chicago; Rebecca (Drew Deutsch) Smart of Gig Harbor, WA; Robert Smart of Pensacola, FL; William (Diane Dickett) Smart Jr of Chicago; and Deb (Gary) Wren of Columbus, OH; her mother's sisters Carol (Ekdahl) Pasbrig and Susan (Ekdahl) Ragland, both of Dousman, WI; as well as many other cousins, nieces and nephews. Ellen's surviving family by marriage includes Marie (Frank) Okonsky of Lake Ridge VA and Orlando, FL; their children Susan (Susan) Okonsky of Whitefish, MT; Dr. Dianne Okonsky of Destin, FL; David (Erika) Okonsky of Alexandria, VA; Carin (Steve) Sears of Leesburg, VA; and their children.
Ellen was preceded in death by her parents Jerome and Anne Uram of Newton, MA; her guardian-parents William and Mary Jean Smart of Pensacola, FL; Robert (Uncle Bob) Smart of Waukegan, IL; Barbara (Aunt Barbara) Weiss of Vienna, VA; as well as father-in-law Frank Okonsky of Woodbridge, VA.
Friends are invited to join the celebration of Ellen's life from noon to 2:30 PM on August 18, 2018 at Denizens Brew Pub in Silver Spring, MD. Please leave condolences and check Rapp Funeral Services for further information.
We all thank the staff at Casey House, who provided care and kindness for Ellen and family in her final days. The family requests memorial donations to celebrate her life be given to your favorite charity supporting literacy, merciful patient care (including Casey House/Montgomery Hospice) and cancer prevention (including Breast Cancer Prevention Partners).