Betty Ford Center Alumni
(877) 444-5205
M-F 8:00am to 4:30pm PST

Long Time Recovery

Service, Love And Sobriety

Posted September 5th, 2012 - Long Time Recovery


The Betty Ford Center is part of the history of thousands of alumni, and in some cases, alumni have become a part of the history of the Center. Mary Ellen Zakoff was one of those alumni.

Mary Ellen passed away April 12, 2012, leaving a legacy of service and love to Betty Ford Center. She was a member of the Alumni Board of Directors and also served as an alumni contact for countless women in Illinois, California and Wyoming. Because she spent several months each year in California, she was also a regular attendee at the alumni meetings held at the Center and served on the Friday night patient panel.

In a 1999 letter to Mrs. Ford, Mary Ellen wrote, “I have just completed my second year on the Alumni Board. It has been the most rewarding time of my life. I am so grateful to be a part of this recovery team. It has been so encouraging to start as total strangers and become like family, sharing so many recovery things we have in common.”

Her experience on the Board reflects what so many alumni find in treatment – starting out as total strangers and becoming like family, sharing and strengthening bonds of recovery.

Anne Hewgley, who began her Alumni Board service with Mary Ellen, said “For me, Mary Ellen was an integral part of the instant bonding of our Alumni Board – we had many new members – and we were related even though we did not yet know each other. When Mary Ellen was introducing herself to the Board, she shared about the death of her son Joe; that gut level of honesty set the tone for our group.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity of serving on the Alumni Board with wonderful people like Mary Ellen – those years of involvement with the Center were rewarding in ways that I could not have imagined, and the relationships with Board members from all over the country remain treasured blessings.”

Mary Ellen also wrote: “I now look back on my day’s events each night and re-think how I handled the day and what I can do to improve tomorrow. I can make a difference, and it starts with me.”

Joan Connor Clark, former manager of Alumni Services, described one of the differences Mary Ellen made. Each anniversary for many years, she would send a check to cover the cost of two banquet tickets, asking that they be anonymously given to alumni who wanted to attend but were unable to pay the cost.

Mary Ellen lives on in the memories of her husband Robert, children Julie (Richard) Seiler, Robert, Elana, the late Joseph Zakoff and grandchildren Richard, Kiersten and Robert III. She is also forever in the heart of the Betty Ford Center.

A memorial mass will be held Thursday, November 8 at 10:00 am at Sacred Heart Church, 43775 Deep Canyon Rd, in Palm Desert, CA.  Alumni interested in donating to a scholarship fund in Mary Ellen’s memory may contact Annual Gifts Officer Kelly Raguindin at the Betty Ford Center Foundation, 760-773-2984.



No comments at this time

Leave a Comment


Contact Betty Ford Center Alumni Services weekdays between 8:00am and 4:30pm PST
(877) 444-5205