Eliana Marie Winterbauer-Light
1995 - 2020
Eliana Marie Winterbauer-Light

On November 13, 1995, the most beautiful girl, mind, body and soul, was born in Rockford, IL to Susan Winterbauer and Edward Light. Eliana Marie Winterbauer-Light, called "Mary" by her family, was their pride, and she was their joy.

She was senselessly killed in a motor vehicle accident on April 15th, 2020.

Eliana was brilliant. In her academic career at Boylan High School and at Marquette University, she was always in Honors, always on the Dean's List, always involved in many activities. One of the awards she collected while she was at Boylan speaks to the kind of person she was- the Titans' Outstanding Principles Award, given to students who make a daily, positive difference through their actions and values by demonstrating "quiet courage" traits such as integrity, selfless service, respect, and responsibility.

She graduated from Marquette in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with honors and minored in Philosophy & French. She enthusiastically intended to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in psychology.

Eliana was an ardent advocate for women's rights and equality and a former president of Marquette Empowerment. She would gently correct anyone who used words that belittled women. She was also an environmentalist, believing in and encouraging sustainable practices.

Eliana was an advocate for any marginalized individual or group. Her time and passion were in helping others, especially the homeless, returning citizens reintegrating into society post-incarceration, and those struggling with mental illness.

She worked at the renowned Rogers Behavioral Health on the Adolescent Unit where she helped numerous residents work toward coping with OCD and anxiety.

Eliana's diverse work experiences and activities included Research Assistant Marquette, Intern at Project Return, Sexual Violence Prevention Peer Educator, Volunteer at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center at the Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee, Writing Tutor at Marquette University, Global Village Ambassador, Inclusive Program Assistant at the Rockford Park District, and Barnabas Listener at P.A. Peterson's Retirement Home.

Eliana was a world traveler, constantly broadening her horizons both geographically and intellectually. She was the recipient of the Honors Study Abroad Scholarship and did a field research project in Rwanda. She backpacked through Europe, visited Brazil, Mexico City, and places throughout the US. She recently returned from a trip to Berlin and another to Israel.

She loved music. As a little girl she went to years of violin lessons with her grandpa, then her grandma made sure she learned the piano. Her dad took her to the symphony since she was 2 and exposed her to many types of music. As an adult she was learning the guitar. She was a rolodex of musical knowledge.

In her busy life she always made time for friends, especially those friends in need. People were drawn to her because they sensed that she genuinely cared. She loved her friends and she had many. Of course, her brilliant sense of humor, joy of life, and infectious smile were hard to resist. Conversations with her were always interesting, inspiring and/or meaningful in some way. She had a way of making one feel special.

She especially loved her family and faithfully checked in daily with her mother as she knew her mom worried about her safety and well-being. She was fiercely independent despite her mother and big brothers always trying to protect her.

In her short life, Eliana made many contributions. Her impact is and will continue to be felt. She had so much more to do, from changing public policies to being a mom. Her family is heartbroken and will miss her sweet voice every day for the rest of their lives.

In a final, selfless act, Eliana was an organ donor.

She is predeceased by her father, Edward Light, J.D., her paternal grandparents, Dr. & Mrs. David and Leona Light. She is survived by her mother, best friend, mentor, and student, Susan Winterbauer, her beloved brothers Adam and Brennan (Ashley), her maternal grandparents, Dr. & Mrs. William and Katherine Winterbauer and many adoring aunts, uncles, cousins and a nephew, William. She is also survived by her love, Christian Cimino.

Due to the pandemic, services will be private. Plans to have a celebration of her life are pending as well as the creation of a scholarship fund. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in her honor to The Guest House of Milwaukee or Project Return. Share online condolences at:


Published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from Apr. 22 to Apr. 24, 2020.
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12 Entries
I honestly do not even know where to begin. I am a patient from Rogers OCD Residential who loved Eliana so incredibly much. I looked up to her and she has honestly saved my life. Eliana wasnt just the most wonderful and intelligent RC, she was the most wonderful and intelligent person. She brought so much positivity to the unit and truly helped so many people through some of the hardest times of their lives. I had so many lovely conversations with Eliana, not just about my struggles and my treatment, but about my hopes and dreams for myself. She made me feel like I could do absolutely anything. She always encouraged me to continue writing and playing music and to begin living a life I love. Eliana has changed my life, she has inspired me to continue to fight for what I believe in. I will never forget talking to her about myself wanting to start a nonprofit to help others with their mental health struggles. She is so incredibly intelligent and says the most knowledgeable things about life. I remember she talked about how she wanted to help and work with providing guidance and support for people struggling to get back to life after spending some time in jail. Eliana had such a bright future ahead of her and I am still in shock that she is gone and I honestly cant seem to fully wrap my head around it. I truly look up to Eliana and she was someone I wanted to talk to again in the future years after my treatment at Rogers and thank her once again for all of her support. She is truly an angel. I am so deeply sorry for your lose and I will never ever forget Eliana and the incredible impact she has had on my life.

Love , Emily Belanger
(Rogers patient)
Emily Belanger
July 7, 2020
I just wrote a letter and I meant to say she wouldnt want me to cry over her death too much. She would want me to....
so sorry!
Zoe Baer
June 14, 2020
Eliana was such an amazing person and RC. She was always there for me when I was struggling and she always had so much advice and support to offer me. Conversations with her were never dull-I could talk with her for hours! Eliana always made sure that you knew she cared. I cant envision what treatment would have been like without her. My heart goes out to her family; I cant even begin to fathom how hard this must be. I am so grateful that I was able to know her.
Emmi Moeller
June 14, 2020
hi. Eliana was not only a great rc but an amazing mentor to me. I went to rogers CAC and Eliana really helped me settle in. She helped me through my first panic at CAC, read me through the rules, and made me laugh for the first time in a while. She really helped me a lot throughout my treatment. Although she is no longer with us physically, I know she will always be watching over me. I know she would want me to cry too much over her death. She would want me to continue all the progress that I have made and take the advice she gave me and use it to grow strong. She was the type of person who always put others in front of her. May she Rest In Peace and from the whole CAC family, we can all say we love and miss her so much! I hope youre family can see all the amazing things she brought to this world. Im so sorry for you're loss but I hope you guys can stay strong!
Much love
Zoe Baer
June 14, 2020
Thank you, Susan and family, for sharing Eliana with us. I was a grad tutor with her at the writing center at Marquette and was continually impressed with her compassion, her ability to educate, and her gentle but firm manner. Even though she was younger than me, she was so wise and knowledgeable that I always learned something from our conversations. My heart breaks at your loss. We are all richer for having known her and poorer at her home-going. May God bless and keep you all and may memories of your wonderful daughter, friend, and loved one bring you comfort.
Anna Scanlon
May 1, 2020
Eliana ALWAYS made me feel so special as her co-worker! She told me all the time, that when she saw my name on the schedule to work with her that day, she was excited and new that this would be a good shift! I loved that and loved seeing her when I walked in the door. With the hectic days of a hospital, I never knew who I would be working with,but was always happy to see her and told her so! We genuinely made each other smile at work even on bad days and I always thanked her for that-i am still thankful for that smile! I am so sorry for the family that lost this beautiful spirit.
April 29, 2020

I cannot believe I am writing this. I am in shock. What a tragic day this has become, reading today of this horrible and yes, as her obituary stated, senseless loss. This is beyond unfair and too painful to contemplate. I was a friend of her Dad Eddie. We worked together at Southern Illinois Airport. I was a bartender and in graduate school and he was a server, cracking me up all the time standing at the bar waiting for his drink orders. He was trying to get into law school. I owned a home in Carbondale and he moved into a spare bedroom and holed up all summer to study for the bar exam. When he moved to my hometown of Rockford, I introduced him to people and my family on holidays. He became part of our family. When I lived in Springfield, he would come to visit. And when I moved back to Rockford years later, we would share some holidays. My husband Dave and I were honored to be at Ellie's Jewish Naming Ceremony. Eddie said that she would be called "Ellie" when he told us her name. Later, we would watch her grow into such a principled woman, so accomplished and so sweet. Then we lost Eddie's parents, then his sister, then Eddie, and now Ellie. How could all this tragedy be? Such a terrible loss of so many fine, fine people who truly changed the world. I comforted Ellie at her father's funeral and shared photos and memories of him which delighted her and then kept in touch a bit when she was in Milwaukee. Who could have foreseen this horror? Our hearts go out to Susan and the rest of the family who are in such pain right now. Susan, you did a great job capturing your wonderful daughter in that sad, sad obituary. What a light she shone on the world and so early in life! May God give you some measure of peace at such a horrific time. There are no words....here is a candle since Ellie loved that I was an environmental scientist. Her values were so beyond her years. She made her mark on the world so quickly and with such passion. Susan and Ed did a great job in raising such a wonderful daughter. Our prayers are with you Susan and both of the families all over. We couldn't be sorrier or sadder today. God Bless.
Valeri DeCastris
April 24, 2020
What a remarkable young woman! Just reading her obituary tells me that she was, and did, what any one person would aspire to in a life well lived, but already in 24 years. So beautiful, so incredibly gifted and giving. I believe God recognized she was uniquely and supremely capable of even greater influence from a place beyond this material world, and made her an Angel. One who loves as she did is surely with God!
Donna Green
April 24, 2020
Heartfelt condolences to her family.
Deanna Neuberg
April 23, 2020
Susan and Family...we are so sorry for your loss...what an amazing daughter Eliana was. Our prayers are with you for comfort in the days ahead.
With love John and Eileen Holtan
April 23, 2020
I am so sorry to hear of this tragic loss. I had met Eliana through business in Rockford, and we had a random run-in on a bus at the airport in Barcelona 2 years ago. She was a lovely, vibrant young woman. My prayers are with your family.
Alisha Fisher
April 23, 2020
Greg and I send our love and prayers to all of you.. Mary was an amazing spirit on this planet. Her light will live on in all she touched. May God hold you all in her hands.
Mary Tuite
April 22, 2020
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