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Ellen Volpe, UB Nursing School professor, remembered for dedication and joy

June 11, 1971 - June 8, 2017

Ellen Volpe commuted between her home in Rochester and her job in Buffalo, and when she returned home each night, she didn’t bring her bags through the door. That would just slow her down from her goal: running to get on the floor and play with her 2- and 3-year-old sons, Paul James and John Michael.

Whether it was 2 a.m. or the middle of the day, she always had energy, love and patience, said her husband, John McIntyre.

“Even if she was frustrated, she’d still do it,” McIntyre said.

Ellen Margaret Volpe, 45, died Thursday morning in a five-vehicle crash on the Thruway.

Ms. Volpe was an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing. She held three degrees, including a Ph.D. in health practice research earned from the University of Rochester in 2010. She was an active member of Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honor society, and served on the executive board of the School of Nursing’s Gamma Kappa chapter.

She also worked as a nurse practitioner at community health centers in Rochester, and during the summer she volunteered at Camp Dream, where her husband is a director, through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rochester, which posted a statement on their Facebook page following her death.

When McIntyre met his future wife in 2009, he knew he struck gold. She showered those around her with love and was an amazing partner, he said. When she was around someone, her presence was felt, she was in the moment with them.

At Ms. Volpe's core was her desire to keep busy.

At the annual UB School of Nursing get-together, Ms. Volpe was the center of attention. She would handle two toddlers while holding a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other.

“It was like she had a third arm,” said Adrian Juarez, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing. “It was quite the sight.”

That moment captured Ms. Volpe. She was graceful in situations of stress, and the more she had to take care of, the more she thrived. And she was a “quintessential mother,” Juarez said.

Susan Zannoni, clinical assistant professor at the School of Nursing, said Ms. Volpe had the ability to manage a lot at once. Her research had focused on narrative exposure therapy, a short-term treatment for trauma victims. She and Zannoni were scheduled to begin work next month with Renaissance Addiction Services through a grant they received from the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.

At UB, her office door was always open. Among faculty members, she was someone they could look up to. She had an impeccable work ethic, never missing a deadline. Her passion lay in researching the struggles of adolescents, violence in relationships and mental health.

These are groups of people that no one really thinks about, Juarez said, but Ms. Volpe saw the level of need and wanted to empower her patients and help them regain their sense of self-worth and independence.

“Nurses, we really like to say we’re patient advocates,” Juarez said. “And Ellen really took that to a new level. She lived and breathed it.”

It took Ms. Volpe about an hour to drive from her Rochester home to UB. There were days when she would add an extra round-trip so she could be there when a patient needed her.

Ms. Volpe’s husband attributed her ability to nurture and relate to young people to her own childlike joy and love of life.

“She was free and easy,” McIntyre said. “She didn’t care so much about what others thought of her. She cared about being of service.”

In addition to her husband and sons, Ms. Volpe is survived by her parents, Margaret and Michael Volpe Jr.; her siblings, Michael Volpe III, Martha Morgan and Suzanne Volpe; and 17 beloved nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas Moore Church, 2617 East Ave., Rochester.

A GoFundMe page has been set up with a focus on contributing toward Ms. Volpe's sons' education.

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