Mary Ellen Sartoris
1953 - 2020
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Sartoris, Mary Ellen 8/18/1953 - 10/9/2020 Howard City Mary Ellen Sartoris, 67 years of age, passed away in Howard City, MI on Friday, October 9, 2020 with her family, the Butler family, and beloved dog, Shine, at her side after a short illness. Born in Schenectady, NY, she was educated at St. Joseph's Academy and Notre Dame High School. She graduated from Gannon College (now University) in Erie, PA, completing her Bachelor's Degree in Social Work in three years and she completed her Master's in Social Work at the University of West Virginia, Morgantown. She held many positions in her social work career--caseworker, case manager, supervisor-in various social agencies, focusing on children's protective services, family services and foster placements in Erie, PA, Galesburg, IL, Caribou, ME, Milwaukee, WI and Grand Rapids, MI. Most recently, Mary Ellen was an assistant professor in Western Michigan University's School of Social Work, Grand Rapids campus. She was predeceased by her parents, Jim and Winnie Sartoris, of Schenectady, NY. Mary Ellen leaves behind her siblings: John (Linda) of Clifton Park, NY; James (Gwen) of Fairport, ME; Joseph (Ann) of Cambridge, NY; her sister, Margaret (Steven) Snyder of Ballston Lake, NY; her twin sister, Winifred (Kathleen Thackham) of South Milwaukee, WI and Marjorie Adrian of Tomball, TX; six nephews and a niece; eight great-nephews and nieces, and many friends and colleagues. Fulfilling her request, there will be no funeral services for Mary Ellen and her remains will be cremated. Donations in her name can be made to the Sheldon House, 201 Sheldon Blvd SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (www.sheldonhouse.net/donate); Western Michigan University School of Social Work (www.secure.wmualumni.org/s/give); or Humane Society of Western Michigan (www.hswestmi.org) Mary Ellen impacted many lives through her chosen career and also through her volunteer work that ranged from staffing rape crisis hotlines, Habitat for Humanity builds, charity road races and half-triathlons, giving her financial, time and talent support to numerous social service and charitable organizations, including, most recently, her position as Chair of the Executive Board of the Sheldon House in Grand Rapids. She loved living in the country, her long walks with her dogs, a good book to read and cooking her special recipes for others. The Sartoris family wishes to thank the staff of the fifth and fourth floor ICUs of the Meijer Heart Center of Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids and the Spectrum Hospice team for their compassionate care and concern for Mary Ellen. The family especially appreciates the Butler family--Todd, Gale and Anita--for their affection and support of Mary Ellen over the years, and especially during her illness.

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Published in Grand Rapids Press from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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18 entries
October 24, 2020
I was very lucky to learn from Professor Sartoris. Her experiences and insight have impacted me as a social worker. She was always so energetic and had a great sense of humor. Her memory and teaching will live on for years to come.
Samantha Westhouse
Student
October 22, 2020
The loss of Professor Sartoris deeply saddens me. She made a huge impact in my personal and professional life. I would always purposely register for her classes. She definitely taught me things that I will forever use in my personal and professional life. Mary Ellen had a beautiful spirit and I will truly miss her presence forever. Condolences to all family, friends, students and coworkers. Forever grateful for her.
De’Shalan Bennett-Lucas
Student
October 22, 2020
I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to have Mary Ellen as a professor and mentor. Her energy and compassion was contagious and inspiring. I send my deepest condolences to friends and family. She will be missed.
Nicole
Student
October 21, 2020
I am shocked and saddened to learn of Mary Ellen’s death. Such a loss not only for her many friends and colleagues but for the profession of social work in general. Her dedication to the field and her commitment to quality made all of us better. So grateful that I had the opportunity to work with and learn from her!
KrisFaasse
Coworker
October 19, 2020
I am so shocked and saddened to hear about professor Mary Ellen! She was my very first social worker professor and has made a great impact on why I chose to stay in the field of social work! She was so passionate, honest and humble and I just can’t believe I’ll never have the chance to study with her again. To her family and friends, I send you all prayers and hugs. May she Rest In Peace!
Victoria Gonzalez
Student
October 19, 2020
Mary Ellen was my favorite instructor in graduate school. She had such a kind heart and great personality. She spoke about social work with such passion that inspired me and so many others. I am so sorry for her family’s loss and WMU’s faculty. She was one of a kind.
Mason
Student
October 19, 2020
Mary Ellen, it’s unbelievable that I am posting here. To your family, please know that Mary Ellen meant so much to me and my family. She called my daughter, “niece” and virtually attended her first bday party. Smiles all around as my daughter received her gift from aunt Mary Ellen! It began as you being my supervisor, professional reference, and we ended as friends. I will miss our monthly check-ins. When I didn’t hear from you, I called & called, and I had no idea what you were experiencing. You should know that you were on my mind. To your family, I’m happy you were all by Mary Ellen’s side. I will forever miss you friend
Toni Latham
Friend
October 19, 2020
The loss of Professor Sartoris was quite shocking. She was influential in so many ways, and loved by her students. I will forever be grateful for her insight and experience. Her words will continue to guide me as I develop in the social work profession. I feel fortunate to have had her as a Professor. I will be sending love to her friends and family during this time.
With so much gratitude,
Alicia Cox
Alicia Cox
Student
October 19, 2020
The loss of Professor Sartoris was quite shocking. She was influential in so many ways, and loved by her students. I will forever be grateful for her insight and experience. Her words will continue to guide me as I develop in the social work profession. I feel fortunate to have had her as a Professor. I will be sending love to her friends and family during this time.
With so much gratitude,
Alicia Cox
Alicia Cox
Student
October 18, 2020
Mary Ellen was not a fan of the attention being on her. She was the most humble person on the planet I think. How wonderful to see the impact she has had on others here. Her and I worked closely together with Sheldon House projects and Advisory Board related work. We became more than colleagues. She became a friend and mentor to me. She taught me a lot.

1 - The importance of standing up for something important.
2 - Having confidence in myself and my judgement - I already miss her encouraging words, but won’t forget them!
3 - The importance of taking the time to thank someone with a handwritten note and gift. She was the BEST at this! Seriously. No comparison.
4 - To hold expectations high of others, as well as myself.
5 - The importance of having someone to listen to and just talk. Oh and a good story! I miss our talks. I’m so thankful for the conversations we have had. She had an ability to be completely present. To truly listen and then to remember to check back and ask later about what was talked about and how things are going. Second to none. She was amazing at this. I hope I remember that forever.
6 - and the importance of working hard! She worked harder than anyone I know. with spunk, humor and energy like no other. Forever a “worker bee” and “energizer bunny.”

I will miss you Mary Ellen. Until I see you again, Godspeed.

Tara

PS - I love the photos shared here. I remember last year at our retreat, no one believing that you sang in the county fair (when playing 2 truths and a lie). Now we see the proof. Love it!!


Tara VanDyke
Friend
October 18, 2020
Mary Ellen and I dated in our Junior year of high school. She attended Notre Dame while I attended Bishop Gibbons. Her twin sister, Fritzi, dated my best friend, Bob, and I remember countless double dates with them. One of my fondest memories is our night at our Junior Prom and then an all-day picnic the next day at Thatcher Park. Once college took all of us away and adulthood set in, sadly we lost touch. I have wonderful memories of the time spent with Mary Ellen and I will hold close close to my heart.
Michael Paurowski
Friend
October 17, 2020
Mary Ellen and "Fritzi" singing "Sisters"
October 17, 2020
Preparing for a musical show in HS
October 17, 2020
HS Grad 1971
Mary Ellen was a special part of our family. We ( cousins ) spent many happy, and sometimes mischievous, times at our Grandmother's house, our homes, and in school. Almost every Sunday, and every Christmas and Thanksgiving, our extended families gathered to share a meal.

We shared several rites of passage together ( such as first dates and first kisses ) in high school. These happy memories will always be with me.

Mary Ellen often thought of others, and this is abundantly obvious in her long career. She was private, and humble, but always there to help.

I profoundly regret being less in touch with Mary Ellen in recent years and am deeply saddened by her loss.
Mary Beth ( Sartoris ) Abarbanel
Family
October 17, 2020
Mary Ellen has left memories in the hearts of many. As children together, we shared many Sundays, holidays, birthdays and vacations.
We sang around the upright piano at Gram's house. We ate Christmas and Easter dinner in shifts because our family was so large when we all gathered. We played, laughed and just had a blast being cousins. As adults, we tend to have lost close contact as the years have gone by, but we were all blessed to have had Mary Ellen in our lives. Our sympathy goes out to her siblings Johnny, Jimmy (Cricket, as we called him) Margaret, Frizti (her fabulous twin) and Joey. Also our hearts to out to the folks who loved her so much and took care of her when she needed them, as well as all the lives she touched with her work. She will be missed by many near and far.
Sue and Tom Best
Sue (Sartoris) Best
Family
October 17, 2020
Miss you Mary Ellen! We love you!
Josh Dekker
Student
October 16, 2020
I am sorry for your loss. My life was one impacted by Mary Ellen’s kindness and encouragement in the WMU MSW program. I will always cherish the difference she made in my life.
My thoughts and prayers will be with you.
Sally
Sally Verstraete
Student
October 16, 2020
Mary Ellen was a kind and considerate person. I'm happy I got to know her through her twin sister Winifred when she briefly came to live in Milwaukee. I enjoyed her stories about her work in social services and I honor her dedication in this area. My condolences to all family members and others whose lives were touched by this lovely woman.
Sincerely,
Rebekah Sneed
Rebekah Sneed
Friend
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