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Marvin B Ellenberg
February 25, 2024


Funeral for Elaine Roni Sippy

Memorial Image
Funeral: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Sunday, February 26th, 2023
Home of Eternity Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
Unveiling: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Monday, February 26th, 2024
Home of Eternity Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
Memorial Contribution: National Network of Abortion Funds
9450 SW Gemini Drive, PMB 16009
Beaverton, OR 97008
617-267-7161 x2
Memorial Contribution: Alameda Food Bank
P.O. Box 2167
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 523-5850
Memorial Contribution: Doctors without Borders
333 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10001-5004
(212) 679-6800

Roni (Elaine) Sippy (née Block) died at her home in Berkeley, California on February 23, 2023. Roni was born January 8, 1941, in Newark, New Jersey. Daughter of Beatrice Blumenthal and Emil Block, elder sister to Benjamin and Paula Block. Mother of Shana Sippy, mother-in-law of David Wirtschafter, and grandmother of Zachariah Nissim and Emanuelle Sivan Wirtschafter Sippy.

Roni attended Columbia High School in New Jersey (graduating in 1958) and made lifelong friends. She attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1962. Following graduation, she moved to Berkeley, California to begin a doctoral program in experimental psychology-conducting research on eating disorders-and working as a statistician. There she met Lachman Sippy, an engineering doctoral student from India. They were married in 1966 and she rejoiced and loved the international family she inherited through marriage. Until the very end, regardless of her divorce from Lachman, the Sippys were her family too. After many years of trying and losses, at the end of 1971, she gave birth-with a joy that she reflected upon often-to her daughter Shana. Despite divorcing, Roni and Lachman modeled what true friendship and co-parenting could look like. They illustrated that relationships can change in the most radical of ways without needing to be severed. In fact, people often remarked about how surprised they were that the bonds of family only grew over the years, later including Lachman's wife Anjali Sippy, and their daughter Pravina. Indeed, the family ties that Roni valued were not simply those forged in biology or marriage, but in friendship.

The friendships that she maintained from her childhood in New Jersey and college, those that she and Lachman began in the 1960s and 70s with a constellation of immigrants from other parts of North America and the world (India, South America, Europe), and those from book groups, new moon, women's groups, and Spanish classes only grew stronger over the years. She and her friends truly knew the importance and pleasure of friendship and how to enjoy life-they loved cooking together, throwing dinner parties, and drinking good wine, laughing late into the night. That family of friends remained a constant source of joy, comfort, and support over the years.

It is impossible to imagine what these last, long years of her battle with cancer would have been like without the constant care Roni received from friends. And it wasn't just the friends that she chose who became like family, but she also loved to bits all of her daughter's friends and adopted them as her own, taking pride in their accomplishments and wanting updates on all the goings-on and intimate details of their lives.

She dedicated her professional life to helping those with the greatest needs. She worked providing state social services and later received a Master's degree in Family and Child Counseling. She worked for many years providing mental health services at the Pleasanton Women's Prison and then the Clausen House Home for the Developmentally Disabled. She spent the remainder of her career providing mental health crisis services for Contra Costa County-working in Richmond, California with many of the area's most under-resourced and marginalized communities. She took great pride in her work and talked often about how much she learned from those who are so often ignored and written off. She would often come home after long days to share how her work-exhausting as it was-made her grateful for all she had and also offered countless lessons in resilience and determination, exposing the inequalities in the social structures in our world.

She had a small private practice but was committed to having a job that, even if low paying, would provide a steady income, pension, and benefits. That choice exemplified her disposition-she was eminently responsible, carefully scrimping and saving until the very end, always wanting to find a way to provide the most opportunities for her daughter and grandchildren to learn and travel. She was wicked-smart, a voracious reader, and, like her own mother, loved a good crossword, finishing a Sunday Times puzzle just two days before she died. She was a wonderful cook, with a discerning palate. She mastered her mother-in-law's Indian recipes, loved to feed people, and enjoyed when they appreciated her signature dishes. Cooking was something she loved to do with others, especially her daughter and grandchildren, for whom she made elaborate and delicious birthday cakes. She was a true humanist, enjoying her adventures-traveling all over the world, sailing, rafting, hiking, and learning from every person, culture, and environment she encountered. She was always honest, and her strong sense of ethics governed all her relationships; you always knew where you stood with her and there was no pretense, ever.

She was among the proudest and most dedicated grandmothers; she was devoted to her grandchildren Zachariah and Emanuelle and they returned her devotion in spades-something for which she was profoundly grateful until her last breath. She was diagnosed with stage 3b Melanoma at the end of 2009 and stage 4 in 2013. During those last 13.5 years, she fought cancer with a fierceness and determination that defied all odds time and again. She had more than a dozen surgeries, benefited from the truly miraculous advances in medicine and was blessed with the most remarkable healthcare providers, doctors, and nurses. Most notably, there are not enough words to thank Dr. Adil Daud at UCSF, without whose knowledge, interventions, and care she would have seen very little of the last 9.5 years of her life.

Roni was a formidable woman. She was fiercely independent, living alone and caring for herself until the very end when she could do so no longer. She spoke her mind and had strong opinions. She fought cancer with determination and intensity and despite her pragmatic, and, at times, even pessimistic attitude, she never gave up hope that she could live a full life, despite the diagnosis, which she did. She loved as fiercely as she fought, and she made sure that those she loved knew it. She was happiest and felt fulfilled when she was helping others, listening to their problems, and helping them think through options and solutions; she didn't like being on the receiving end of help anywhere near as much. She will be remembered with great love. Her generosity, strength, independence, and determination will remain an inspiration to all those who knew and loved her.

The family will be sitting Shiva in both Berkeley, California and Lexington, Kentucky.

A recording of the memorial service can be viewed here: <>

Donations can be made to the Alameda Food Bank here: