Ellen Brody was driving home from work on Tuesday evening when her Mercedes SUV was violently struck by a Metro-North commuter train in Westchester County, New York, killing her instantly. Her daughters, in a panic when their mother didn't return home at her regular time, called her co-worker. Virginia Shasha sat vigil with Ellen's three daughters while their father went to the local police station to share his concern about his missing wife. When he returned home at 1:30 AM on Wednesday, his news was grave.
“She’s gone," he told them.
Since that moment, many in her family and in her community have shared remembrances of the woman who would have celebrated her 50th birthday next month.
“The last thing I said to her was something like ‘See you tomorrow,’ and we talked about bringing yogurt for our diets,” Virginia Shasha said. “I always used to invite her for dinner, and it will always haunt me that I didn’t (Tuesday) night.”
“She reminded me of Joan Rivers,” Gina Forgione, a friend of Ellen Brody for the last 30 years, said. “She was that funny, and she was an amazing mom, too. ... I really feel bad for her husband and daughters. She is going to be so missed."
Neighbor Songkuk Kim was dismayed when he learned the news about Ellen Brody.
"Oh my God,” he said. “She was a very kind person. When we have a big snow, and we’re out there shoveling, she always waves. This is so sad.”
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Nick Kokis went to high school with Ellen Brody at Hillcrest High School in Queens.
“I’m in shock,” he said. “She was a really sweet person, salt of the earth. It’s just really, really tragic.”
An unidentified woman came out of the Brody home on Wednesday afternoon to read a statement to the awaiting media.
“Ellen Brody was a much-loved wife and mother of three,” the woman said. “She was an active member of this community."
“This is a tragic loss for all of us," she continued, "and we just ask that you respect our privacy at this time. Thank you.”
Ellen Brody was mourned at a funeral service on Friday.
“Her family was everything to her,” Rabbi Benjy Silverman, co-director of the synagogue, said of her. “She was their biggest fan and supporter. Her beautiful soul always found beauty within others. She felt a deep connection with everyone she encountered."
A large picture of Ellen Brody stood at the front of the synagogue. She was smiling.
“That was exactly the same spirit of the girl I met back in 1989 at a friends’ reunion in Queens,” her husband said of the photo, choking back tears. “Somehow, she stood out in the crowd and her youthful effervescence caught my attention. That enthusiasm, that effervescence, that exuberance, it never lacked. It never got old. It was her gift.”
The days and weeks ahead will be unfathomable for the Brody family in light of this terrible train crash. May they find some peace in the outpouring of love and support they are receiving from their family members and friends.