Fink—Ellanor Stengel Fink, 71, on March 9, 2017, at home in Chevy Chase, Md. Ellie was born on June 22, 1945, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., to Louise and Geoffrey Stengel. She graduated from Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pa., in 1963 and from Wheaton College (Massachusetts) in 1967. After college and a summer living in India, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the Congressional Research Service, the Senate Commerce Committee, Consumer Reports, the Concord Coalition, and Lowell School. She also did freelance photography and film research at the National Archives.
As a young woman she took in a friend from a disastrous marriage and helped her start a new life. This act of kindness influenced her friend to extend a hand to others, and was one of many times Ellie helped others without question. Soon after moving to Washington, she met a young attorney, Matthew Fink, and they married in 1973. Although her Quaker ancestor John Roberts had come to America from Wales in 1683 to join William Penn in Pennsylvania, and the family were Quakers until the 1880s, when her great-grandfather became an Episcopalian, Ellie first encountered Quakerism in 1977, when she and Matt attended a Quaker memorial meeting for a colleague of his. Finding that the Quaker meeting was exactly what she needed, she began attending Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.), and found her spiritual home at Bethesda (Md.) Meeting when she and Matt moved to Chevy Chase in 1981.
She served, clerked, and co-clerked on committees and was meeting co-clerk from 2010 through 2013. She did all the meeting’s most challenging jobs, always saying yes when approached. Unflappable, she just figured out what needed to be done and did it. For example, she and the meeting co-clerk organized ten years’ worth of curriculum materials for the Religious Education Committee when they were unable to agree on a curriculum.
Head of elections for Somerset, Md., she also volunteered at her children’s schools; served as co-president of the Somerset Elementary School PTA; helped to introduce the county’s first open-access International Baccalaureate program; and helped to raise funds for the county’s first language lab during her service of 15 years on the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Educational Foundation Board. She also taught English as a second language at the Montgomery County Refugee Center, served on the board of Camp Onaway in New Hampshire, and chaired the Wheaton College Fund. In 2017 Wheaton gave her its annual Alumnae/i Achievement Award.
She extended friendship to longtime Bethesda Friend Richard Barns, a very shy person with no close family or friends, having dinner with him at least once a month as he gradually declined in his 90s. When she noticed that his guardian and lawyer were not serving him well, she intervened. And when Richard’s refrigerator needed cleaning, she cleaned it. Richard’s face would light up whenever she came into the room. Her kindness transformed his last years.
Always helping people, she didn’t expect credit for her good deeds or even think there was anything extraordinary about them. Matt learned about some of them only during her last days. Ellie showed extraordinary courage during her long final illness. She never lost her cheerful spirit and never stopped reaching out to help others. In one of the last Quaker meetings for worship she attended, she rose to ask the meeting to hold someone else in the Light. Her humility, optimism, directness, and generosity lit her life. Friends are blessed to have known her.
Ellie is survived by her husband, Matthew Fink; three children, Emily Pollack Fink (Seamus O’Malley), Owen Thompson Fink (Kimberly Cook Fink), and Nina Pepper Fink; and three grandchildren.