In Memoriam: Ellen Carol Barreto

Ellen Carol Barreto sitting outside
Ellen Carol Barreto (December 25, 1949 – April 7, 2021)

Chicago – Ellen Carol Barreto of Chicago, IL passed away peacefully at home on April 7. After years of outstanding health, Ellen fell ill with constrictive pericarditis in late 2019; the disease deprived Ellen of all the avocations and pursuits that had brought her pleasure and joy before taking her life.

The daughter of John and Josephine Barreto, Ellen was born in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, but claimed Lexington, Massachusetts as her home. Ellen graduated with honors from Radcliffe College and received her MBA from the Stanford University. Ellen maintained a love for learning throughout her life. In addition to her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she earned a certificate from the University of Chicago’s Basic Program, completed the Melton Program from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and participated in innumerable courses offered by Chicago’s Newberry Library.

Ellen was married for 39 years to Jonathan Copulsky whom she met during her first week in graduate school. They resided in New York City (with a weekend home in West Hurley, NY) and Weston, CT, before moving to the Chicago suburbs in 1992. In 2018, Ellen and Jonathan sold the suburban home that she had meticulously renovated and moved downtown to a lakefront apartment, where she lived at the time of her death. In addition to her husband, Ellen is survived by her children, Alexander and Elizabeth, and daughter-in-law, Cary Lin.

Ellen was an amazing mother, wife, and friend. Her children and husband adored her, and Ellen was an indefatigable advocate and constant source of support for her children throughout their lives. Her family and friends will always remember her sense of humor, her sharp wit, her intelligence, her passion for learning, and her commitment to principles of social justice and fairness.

After completing her MBA, Ellen worked for CBS News and the New York Public Library but decided to turn her attention to child-rearing. Over the years, Ellen volunteered enthusiastically, serving as room mom, fund-raiser, guest lecturer, and chair of the village library board.

Ellen read vociferously, consuming copious amounts of books. Her reading choices were far ranging and included biography, history, current affairs, serious fiction, and poetry, with a special place in her heart for classics from authors like Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Ellen’s passion for needlepoint matched her passion for reading. Ellen, a Christmas baby, channeled her passion for needlepoint into creating a collection of needlepoint Christmas tree ornaments commemorating her family’s lives and milestones. Ellen often worried that she would find herself someplace without either a book or a needlepoint project.

Starting in the early 1990’s, Pilates became a great source of joy for Ellen. After dalliances with tap dancing and figure skating, Ellen became a Pilates devotee and never wavered in her commitment to this form of exercise. Ellen had just completed her training to become a certified Pilates instructor when she fell ill in the fall of 2019 and unfortunately never got the chance to share her hard-won expertise with the students that she had hoped to teach.

Progressive causes and women’s rights played important roles in Ellen’s life. The 2016 presidential election galvanized her, and she actively participated in canvassing in Iowa and Wisconsin. She worked tirelessly on various congressional campaigns in 2018 and became an active member of Invest to Elect, a Chicago-area women’s group which supports Democratic candidates running for Federal office.

Ellen loved travel and fine dining and over the years, enjoyed trips to Europe, South and Central America, and Asia, where restaurants, museums, and historical landmarks competed for her attention. A vacation with her daughter to Iceland, the Netherlands, and Belgium constituted her final trip.