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Graduates to get the ‘pomp and circumstance’ they deserve

Outdoor graduation planned for Aug. 1

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Ellen Kamp became a widow in 2006, when her husband, photographer Eric Camp died. Three years later she co-founded the W Connection, a non-profit for widows, with Dawn Nargi, of Manhattan. Kamp helped many widows during her lifetime to rebuild their lives and made friends with several along the way. The Sea Cliff resident’s death on April 25 from ovarian cancer is a loss that continues to be felt by many.

“I miss her presence,” said Mary Smith, of Rockville Centre, who is a co-facilitator at W Connection, which meets in Sea Cliff once a month at the Creative Art Studio. “She looked beyond the everyday and helped us get back to living. She had an innate sense of courage that she shared with the rest of us.”

No one who is not a widow would understand how it feels, said Maryjane Barbaris, another member of W Connection. But Kamp did. She helped Barbaris to cope with the loss of her husband, who died in 2007. Maryjane has lived in Sea Cliff for 40 years.

Barbaris joined the W Connection two years after her husband’s death. Soon she and Kamp became good friends. “Ellen was smart, compassionate, empathetic and kind,” Barbaris said. “She always gave excellent advice. I miss her.”

Kamp, who died when she was 69, battled ovarian cancer for 2 ½ years, her boyfriend Mark Mazer said. She was the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Joseph Glueckstein and Mimi Rubin, who met as young adults while in a concentration camp. Then they were moved to different camps but found each other after the war. The couple married and lived in Germany. After they had their son Fred in 1949 the Gluecksteins decided that they didn’t want to raise children in Germany and moved to the United States.

“Ellen talked a lot about this with me,” Mazer said. “It helped her develop empathy and sensitivity for those who suffer. She inherited a sense of resilience and adaptability from her parents who came to the United States not speaking English without any money. Ellen said, ‘When tragedy happens you don’t let it defeat you. You move on.’”

When Kamp was 14 years old she was diagnosed with scoliosis and underwent surgery where a  metal cage was placed inside her body. She had to lay flat on her stomach for an entire year at Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery. She overcame it, Mazer said. “It taught her survival and empathy for those going through terrible experiences,” he said. “She wanted to help people to move forward. Ellen brought that spirit to the W Connection.”

Smith, who has been involved with the W Connection for five years, said Kamp kept her grounded. Smith’s husband Bob died from lung cancer at age 68. She attended a bereavement group at Mercy Hospital for a year but said the conversations were the same. She wanted to get on with her life.

“Ellen was just amazing,” she said recalling when they first met at a meeting of the W Connection. “Everything there is confidential and Ellen kept it all close to her chest. She was very reassuring that we would survive and prevail as widows. Ellen led by example.”

Mazer said that Kamp went through three surgeries to rid of the cancer and was in and out of remission. She was always loyal, he said. Mazer said if he was sick Kamp would have been there.

“We were lying in bed watching a movie and I went to get her ice cream,” he said. “When I returned she was sitting at the end of the bed, dizzy and couldn’t stand up. I helped her back into a chair and she died in my arms.”

Ellen Camp is survived by her brother Fred Glueckstein; companion Mark Mazer; nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews; and her sister-in-laws Kate Sells and Judy Kamp. Donations in Kamp’s honor can be made to a charity or organization of the donor’s choice.