Longtime Southampton resident Ellen Paster died December 8 of cancer complications while traveling in India. She was 60.
She played an important role in helping to build up her surrounding communities, both on the East End and in Manhattan, and, according to her family, was an independent, inspiring pioneer for women everywhere.
For those who were privileged to know her, survivors said last week, she was an exceptional, optimistic woman, always seeing the potential in everyone and at every opportunity encouraging others to be their best. “She wanted to see people succeed,” her daughter Heather Borstein said on Tuesday, noting that her mother continually lent her energy and expertise to others and always did her best to help them achieve success. Once she committed to doing something, Ms. Borstein said, she followed through until she was satisfied with her accomplishment.
Survivors said that Ms. Paster’s outlook was encapsulated in her words of encouragement in countless situations: “The worst that could happen would be that you had an adventure.” She would tell people to explore, conquer fears, and overall to take risks, they said, just as she did in her own life. As she was fond of saying, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
A graduate of Music and Art in New York City and Antioch College in Ohio, she moved to Westhampton Beach and opened her first Dandelion store in the early 1970s. Over the next few years she expanded the business, opening clothing stores for men, women and children in Southampton and East Hampton. After closing the stores in 1993, she opened Wall Street Bead and Jewelry Exchange in Southampton, creating and designing custom jewelry inspired by her travels around the world.
A two-time breast cancer survivor, she always reached out to other cancer patients, offering advice and support, survivors said, because she was always eager to help others and extend a charitable hand.
After being diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma cancer that had metastasized to her lungs, she was given a grim prognosis. But during the subsequent 23 months of her life, her family said that she continued to live fearlessly, never complaining or revealing the severity of her condition. She celebrated life not knowing how long she had left, enjoying each moment as she continued to explore new things and tackle new projects.
“This is not only a great loss to our family, but also to the local community,” Ms. Borstein said on Tuesday, adding that she will be deeply missed by all her family and friends.
Ms. Paster is survived by her mother, Caryl Steinman of New York City; two daughters, Heather and her husband Matt Borstein of New York City and Heidi and her husband Simon Hars of Colombia; and a son, Jesse and his wife Sarah of California. She is also survived by her longtime partner, Drew Gutterlaite of Southampton and New York City; two granddaughters, Sula and Lily; and a grandson, Adrian.
Services were held at the Southampton Chabad on December 11, followed by interment at the Sag Harbor Jewish Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, c/o Jane Weyl, 633 Third Avenue, 28th Floor, New York, NY 10017, would be appreciated by the family.