Her death was caused by Alzheimer’s disease, which she had been battling with her characteristic grace and courage for the prior four years., her family said. Despite the ravages of the disease, Mary Ellen never lost her humor, compassion, and good cheer.
She was born in Indianapolis, IN, on March 4, 1939 and was raised by her mother Kathryn Smith and her extended family while her father Howard Craig served as a World War II paratrooper in the South Pacific. Mary Ellen went to Purdue on a full-ride academic scholarship to study nutrition and home economics and, upon graduation, enrolled in one of the first Peace Corps classes, spending two years in Chile and making friends and gaining life experiences that she’d reflect fondly on for the rest of her life.
Mary Ellen earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University and served as Dean of Women at Denison University before marrying Charles Alan Kase and raising her two children. Once her youngest child was enrolled in full-time elementary school, Mary Ellen jumped back into her professional life, earning a Law Degree from American University and serving and an intern for the Honorable Frank Q. Nebeker on the DC Superior Court before going into private practice in 1980.
Mary Ellen established a partnership with Susan Norwitch that she later developed into the Craig, Hirsch and Ellenberger LLP practice that she retired from in 2006. Mary Ellen lived in Reston, Virginia from 1971 through 2014 and deeply loved the town. She served Reston as President of the Forest Edge PTA and President of the Reston Association (2000-01) and as an ombudsman for Fairfax County and was active in many other church and community groups.
Mary Ellen left behind two children, Marc Kase and Stephanie Zucker; three grandchildren, Nathan, Katie and Bella Zucker; and her sister Tara Rinker. Mary Ellen loved to travel and all of her children and grandchildren and most of her relatives and friends can share wonderful stories of traveling the world with her. She also left behind a cat named Jazzie that loved only her, closets full of stylish and quirky outfits, and walls full of art from the Greater Reston Arts Center.
Mary Ellen was a wonderful parent, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, friend, role model and companion to all of us and will be sorely missed.
There will be a VA memorial service will be held at the Walker Nature Education Center, 1145 Glade Dr., on July 5 at 2 p.m. She will be buried at her family’s burial plot at the Franklin Greenlawn Cemetary in Frankin, IN on July 7 at 11:00 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests that donations be made to two charities Mary Ellen was passionate about:
Boys to Men Mentoring Network 9587 Tropico Drive La Mesa, CA 91941 www.boystomen.org.
Mountain Stewardship & Outdoor Leadership (SOL) School PO Box 18111 Morgantown, WV 26508 www.mountainsol.org.