Stephanie Ellsworth Sher passed away on July 29, 2021, at home at age 82 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to her 1998 move to Naples, New York, she lived in Boxborough, Massachusetts from 1981 to 1998, and in Acton, Massachusetts from 1971 to 1981.
She was born Barbara Ann Ellsworth on November 13, 1938, in Phoenix, Arizona, the second of four children born to the late Russell Smith and Mary Helene (Worlton) Ellsworth. A descendant of Mormon pioneers, she attended Brigham Young University, where she was active in singing groups, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a PhD in immunology under a National Science Foundation fellowship. At Penn, she changed her name from Barbara to Stephanie, and met and married Lawrence David Sher in 1967. They subsequently lived for the next year in Shiraz, Iran, where they had been invited to teach as visiting academics. Stephanie and Larry moved to Boston in 1971 and Stephanie taught immunology at MIT, where she was on the team of scientists who developed artificial skin for burn victims, allowing many more of them to survive. When her lab was spun off into a private company in the mid-1980s, she taught herself a computer programming language and operated a successful consultancy for the next 15 years.
Stephanie had three lifelong passions: Her husband, Larry; the right of individuals to die with dignity and choices in care; and horses, especially Icelandics. She kept a stable of horses for the last half of her life, and especially enjoyed breeding and training them. She and Larry took horseback riding vacations all over the world. She was also a “life” member of the Hemlock Society, now known as Compassion & Choices, vigorously advocating for physician-assisted suicide and death with dignity.
Stephanie was predeceased by her parents and her husband, Larry, who died in December 2005. She is survived by her daughter, Talia (Sher) Boulanger, Talia’s husband Luke, and their children Miles and Nathaniel Foster, and Marie, Henri, and Mai Boulanger; her son, Aaron Sher and his wife Kerri (Lammerts) Sher; her brother Russell Ellsworth and his wife Karma; her sister Bromwyn Helene and her longtime partner Frank Van Valkenburgh; and her brother James Ellsworth and his wife Lauren; and former brother-in-law Stanley Kiyonaga and his wife Nancy. She is also survived by nine nieces and nephews, including Russell’s children Alec, Sterling, and Stephanie; Bromwyn’s children James, Sumiko, and Siani; and James’ children Morgan, Leihoku, and Kellar, with her nephew Morgan having lived with and helped care for her during a year of her later life.
Stephanie follows Larry in donating her body to the University of Rochester Medical School. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Begin Again Horse Rescue, PO Box 28, Honeoye, NY 14471, or to Compassion & Choices at www.compassionandchoices.org.
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