Obituary of Ethel Beryl Overton Stephenson
Ethel Beryl Overton Stephenson Birth: March 13, 1951 | Metamorphosis: November 11, 2020 Ethel Beryl Overton came into the world on March 13, 1951 at Women’s Hospital, New York City. Like many children of the era, her early years were spent between New York City and “down south” in Edenton, NC. By age 10 she found herself at the crossroads of a blended family. To the surly preteen, the benefit of this could not be seen; but her father Lawrence’s marriage to then Ellen Johnson would prove to be one of the most important things to happen in Ethel’s life. The mutual respect that would grow between Ethel’s mother Phyllis and Ellen would facilitate unbreakable family bonds of love. A bright and precocious child, Ethel was a star pupil at St. Matthew Lutheran School and Our Savior Lutheran High School, earning certificates of recognition in many subjects including music. A legacy student, Ethel attended St. Augustine’s College, joining the ranks of her mother, father, and many cousins. She graduated magna cum lade in 1973 with her bachelor’s degree in History and Government. With full expectation of climbing the corporate ladder, Ethel accepted a position with The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. Her legendary afro graced many a conference room at Equitable as Ethel purportedly became the African American guinea pig for every new initiative. As a recruiter, Ethel put her natural intuition work. She had an uncanny knack at pegging a person in no time flat. This was rewarded with upward mobility made sweeter by a blossoming romance. In December 1980, Ethel married Brian Stephenson. Two years later, their union produced a beautiful baby girl, Kate. Recent mergers at Equitable and the 1980s recession interrupted Ethel’s corporate climb. Moving to Jersey City (the light at the end of the Holland Tunnel) created different opportunities for the young family. Ethel put her bachelor’s in history and government to work, quickly applying to the government. Operating at its typical snail’s pace, the government was slow in responding. Ever resourceful, Ethel secured positions at car dealership AC Chevrolet, temp agency SunWeave, and substitute teaching at Kate’s school, in the interim. When the Internal Revenue Service finally offered a position as a Revenue Officer, Ethel quickly said yes. Ethel served the United States Government for 29 years, collecting millions of dollars in otherwise lost revenue to sustain the many projects that benefit US citizens. Ethel was an active member of AIM (Association for the Improvement of Minorities) in the IRS for many years, as well as a trusted trainer and mentor during her employment. Ethel had four true passions: books, shoes, hats, and collard greens! Regularly described as a “clothes horse” and a “fashion plate,” Ethel had shoes and a hat to match any outfit. Her style was augmented by her great imagination. She said she’d traveled all over the world through the thousands of books she’d read—many over a steaming bowl of stewed collard (mustard, kale, turnip) greens. Her love affair with cooking was stoked by her need to consume greens. She knew what she wanted them to taste like and kept experimenting until she got it right. So right that it became a family favorite. She would regularly make batches to distribute across the NY metro area. Cooking for other people was a simple labor of love for her. While she was not a demonstrative person (none of that mushy touchy feely stuff), Ethel enjoyed quietly performing thoughtful deeds for those she loved. Her super sacks of holiday joy will be missed by many. She brought light into people’s lives in so many ways: an attentive listener, wise counselor, straight shooter, true believer, playful adventurer, sacred space holder. Too soon, she leaves to mourn her: daughter Kate, mother-of-her-heart Ellen, ex-husband Brian, a host of cousins, “adopted” children, extended family, and cherished friends. While heavy with sorrow, our hearts are grateful to have been embraced by her.
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