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Elizabeth J. (Konopka) Story

 

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 years old.


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 family.


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 America.


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 Coastal Management.


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


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