Elizabeth Joyce “Beth” (Konopka)
Story, long-time Essex resident, died peacefully in her sleep at
home with her family on LeBaron Road on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Beth suffered a stroke two weeks earlier. She was seventy-two
Beth was an activist, educator, and
non-profit executive. She loved sailing, traveling, working in her
garden, reading voraciously, and most of all, spending time with
Born in Detroit in 1947, she grew up
in Chicago, and Pentwater, Michigan. Pentwater was perhaps the
only place she loved as much as Cape Ann. She was the daughter of
first-generation Polish-Canadian immigrant Eugeniusz “Bernie”
Konopka, an inventor (whose mother Bronisława Sienkiewicz once
illegally swam to the US from Canada) by his wife Janet Mariane
Kappler, whose ancestors from Denmark and Germany pioneered
Pentwater in the 1800s.
Beth first came to Massachusetts in
1966 to attend Radcliffe. In April 1969, she and other Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS) protestors occupied University
Hall, opposing the war in Việt Nam. Their action led to the
successful Harvard Strike.
A tireless fighter for social
justice and environmental causes, she taught her children and
students to stand up for what they know is right, and to defend
the vulnerable. As a 7th-grade social studies teacher, she taught
her own curriculum on The Holocaust, and contemporary racism in
Beth graduated from Radcliffe in
1970 with a Bachelor of Arts (AB) cum laude; received her Teacher
Certification from the Graduate School of Education in 1971; and
Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Kennedy School of
Government in 1987.
She began her career as a consultant
and community organizer. Then she founded two schools on the North
Shore, and taught social studies. For the last thirty years, Beth
was a senior executive at multiple state agencies and leading
non-profits. She retired in 2013.
Her accomplished career included
Americorps (VISTA); in Gloucester, Senior Home Care Services, and
the Cape Ann Cooperative School; in Beverly, North Shore Community
College, the Glen Urquhart School (GUS), and The School for Field
Studies (SFS); in Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Capital Budget Office (CBO), the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), and the Office of the Attorney General; and in
Cambridge, the Health Effects Institute (HEI), and Union of
Concerned Scientists (UCS).
At the height of her career in 2000,
age fifty-four, Beth resigned UCS and sailed 10,000 miles from
Nova Scotia to Tahiti working as Purser of the Barque Picton
Castle. She traded profitably in Anguilla, the San Blas of Panama,
the Galapagos, Pitcairn, and Polynesia.
The bane of petty bureaucrats world
over, Beth was intolerant of complacency and incompetence. She
hung portraits of her heroes Lincoln and FDR in her home all her
life. Few since lived up to her idealistic standards, though she
was keen on Feynman, McPhee, and the Dalai Lama.
Beth volunteered as Selectwoman, and
Finance Committee Chair in Essex; and served on boards for
Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives, Gloucester Downtown Development
Commission, Far Fetched Transportation, Hospice of the North
Shore, Cape Ann Council for Children, Cape Ann Advisory Board for
the Department of Social Services, and Cape Ann Advisory Board for
After moving to Gloucester in 1970,
Beth built a home on Quarry Street in Lanesville with her first
husband Richard Taylor, then a Gloucester fisherman. Their son
Isaac was born in 1973.
In 1978, she married Brad Story,
accomplished boatbuilder of Essex. Their daughter Emma was born in
1981. Brad and Beth raised their family on LeBaron Road, near the
beautiful Essex River salt marsh. They were married forty years.
She is survived by her husband Dana
Bradford “Brad” Story of Essex, retired boatbuilder and prolific
sculptor; and their daughter Emma Elizabeth Story, software
developer of Brooklyn, New York. She is also survived by her first
husband, Richard Ray Taylor Jr. of Naʻālehu, Hawaii, retired
fisherman and marine scientist; and their son, Isaac Richard
Taylor, technology consultant to the Department of Defense; and
her grandchildren Simone C. and Desmond H. C. Taylor of Mountain
View, California. And her brothers, Mike Konopka, audio engineer
of Chicago; and Larry Konopka, retired attorney of Pentwater.
Arrangements have been made with
Whittier-Porter Funeral Home in Ipswich. Contributions in memory
of Beth may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union at www.aclu.org