95, of Carmel and Fishers died peacefully of natural causes on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. She was born June 26, 1918, in Union City, PA, the daughter of Joseph and Florence (Robinson) Samkowski. She was preceded in death in 2010 by her beloved younger sister, Anna Ruth Graves, who was her best friend.
Although she received several proposals, Elizabeth never married. She is survived by her two nephews, niece, and their spouses, Sam and Sabra Graves of Cicero, Joe and Lois Graves of Fishers, and Dave and Mary Gothi of Laguna Woods, CA. She is also survived by three cousins, Gerry, Tom, and Janet Woods of Edinboro, PA, and their children, and two distant cousins, Richard Samko and Terri Nephew. She is also survived by at least 13 grandnephews and nieces, and 13 great-grandnephews and nieces, all of whom (except the youngest) knew her well and loved her. They all called her "Aunt Widi", the name given her by Sam as a toddler because he could not pronounce Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, known as Liz by her friends, grew up in Union City, PA, and received a Bachelor's degree in English and Science from Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA, and a Master's degree in Physical Education from Columbia University, New York City, NY. She taught high school PE, taught physical therapy during the war, spent most of her career in the welfare department, and went on to get a Master's degree in Sociology from IUPUI. She came within one semester of earning a law degree from IUPUI. She also was a licensed real estate broker.
In her prime Elizabeth was among the most powerful and well-known women in Indiana. Starting in 1946, she was promoted rapidly for 40 years in the Marion County Welfare Department in Indianapolis, eventually serving as the Department's Director from 1973 to 1986. A political conservative, Elizabeth's views were unusual to the often-liberal world of welfare systems. She testified before a U.S. Senate committee in 1982 saying, "We are destroying our national productivity and character in a vain attempt at economic leveling." Upon her retirement she was recognized as a Sagamore of the Wabash, one of Indiana's highest honors.
Elizabeth traveled the world extensively, often with her niece, Mary. China, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Peru, Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland are just a few of the 33 countries she visited. She was an active member of Hope Church, Carmel, for over 60 years, and faithfully shared her faith in Christ with anyone who would listen.
Viewing will be Monday, June 9 at 10:00 a.m. at Hope Church, 2500 East 98th Street, Indianapolis, 46280, followed by a funeral service at 11:00 a.m., a brief graveside ceremony, and a fellowship meal thereafter. Burial will be at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens in Fishers. The family suggests that, instead of flowers, donations be given in her memory to Sunshine Kids International (http://www.sunshinekidsintl.com). Arrangements by Indiana Funeral Care and Crematory .