“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.
Beth was 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) and 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
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, 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 and taught at
two schools on the North Shore. For the last thirty years, Beth was a
senior executive at multiple state agencies and leading non-profits. She
retired in 2013.
career included Americorps (VISTA) in Boston; 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 the Union of Concerned Scientists
At the height of her
career in 2000, age fifty-four, Beth resigned UCS and sailed 10,000 miles
from Nova Scotia to Tahiti 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 the 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 of Brooklyn,
New York, software developer. She is also survived by her first husband,
Richard R. Taylor 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, her brothers, Mike Konopka, audio
engineer in Chicago; and Larry Konopka, retired attorney of Sahuarita,
been made with Whittier-Porter Funeral Home in Ipswich. Contributions in
memory of Beth may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union at
- E-mail a
condolence for family members -