Teacher, Volunteer, Worker Bee
Ellie Karro is a fast stepper, both literally and figuratively. She and her husband David have been at GHBC almost three and a half years, and she’s served on the Resident Council most of that time. Among a myriad of other activities, she’s been very involved with the Fitness Committee, designing and participating in walking and other exercise programs. Now she’s co-chair, with Nancy DeMarco, of the 2020 Employee Gift Fund campaign. Always on the go, Ellie most enjoys doing practical work and making concrete, rather than abstract, contributions to the community. Her successes are apparent throughout our campus.
Eleanor Love Hastings grew up in Oyster Bay, N.Y., the storied hometown of Theodore Roosevelt on Long Island’s north shore. Her father was a native who spent his career working for the Nassau County government, while Ellie’s mother, a Columbia Teachers’ College graduate and Oyster Bay elementary school teacher, was a Virginian, a descendant, through her maternal grandmother, of George Washington.
|Ellie and brother Stuart, 1942
||The Oysterettes won the 1952 state baton
twirling championship. Ellie is back row, right.
“My older brother Stuart and I lived and attended school in Oyster Bay,” Ellie recalls, “but a highlight of our childhood years was the time we spent each summer at our mother’s large family home in Wytheville, Va.”
In 1959 Ellie enrolled at Elmira College in upstate New York as an English major. Two years later she sailed for England and her junior year at the University of Leicester, embarking on a big, year-long European adventure. For a starter, her ship, the SS Waterman, was a converted World War II troop ship, now a floating one-class dormitory for some 800 student-travelers. More travel followed, mostly on second class trains to Italy for Christmas, to France and Spain over Easter and to London on many shorter breaks. When the school year ended, Stuart, now a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, joined Ellie for a month-long hitchhiking trek through the British Isles, including Scotland and Ireland.
|Ellie (l) arrives in Leicester, England 1961
||In Ireland, summer 1962
By 1963 Ellie had her English degree from Elmira. “But I wanted more, to teach elementary school like my mother,” she explains, “and for that I needed a teaching degree.” The University of Wisconsin offered the necessary masters/internship program in elementary education, a school year plus two summers, and she moved to Madison, a decision that would change her life.
During the next several years she got her degree, taught sixth grade and lived with several other young women teachers who would become lifelong friends and partners in annual reunions, often held in resorts or exotic foreign locales.
One freezing February evening in 1968 Ellie met a young man at the student union who needed a ride home, and she offered to take him. He was David Karro, a law student at Wisconsin and former Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. Their relationship blossomed even after he moved to Roanoke, Va., and she to Rockville, Md., where she taught fifth grade. They were married on August 8, 1970, at St. Johns Episcopal Church in Wytheville, in a ceremony that was delayed when she couldn’t find her bouquet. “Someone had put it in the church’s refrigerator to keep it fresh,” she laughs.
David and Ellie marry, 1970
The Karros spent the next three years in Roanoke where David worked with the Legal Aid Society and Ellie substitute taught until 1972 when their first child, John, was born. The following year David was offered a job with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the family moved to Northern Virginia. Then, in 1975, David took a position in the U.S. Postal Service’s legal department, their son Robert was born, and the Karros bought the house on Park Avenue in Falls Church City that would be their home for the next 42 years. They were now on the town’s parade route and, joined by daughter Jennifer in 1978, they loved watching the annual Memorial Day parade from their front porch, especially the Shriners in their red fezzes and booties who drove intricate circular patterns in their tiny toy cars.
The Karros, 1981, from left: David, Jennifer, Ellie, Robert and John
In 1971 Ellie had joined the League of Women Voters in Roanoke. Now in Falls Church, she continued to volunteer with the organization, serving as president, treasurer and publisher of its newsletter. As her children grew older, she added the PTA and scouts to her volunteer agenda, and later she joined the Falls Church Board of Equalization, the Zonta Club of Arlington, a professional women’s service organization, and Arlington Thrive, a group that raises funds for same-day emergency needs in the community.
By 1986, Ellie was ready to rejoin the salaried workforce. She enrolled in an accounting course at Northern Virginia Community College, and, after a brief stint working for a lawyer, she was offered a job with Intelligent Solutions, a locally owned company that sold computer systems to the House of Representatives. “The company was about to hold its Christmas party at Washington’s historic Willard Hotel,” she recalls, “and the owner told me that if I accepted his job offer David and I would be invited to the festivities.” She accepted, they partied at the Willard, and by the time she retired in 2002, having learned on the job, Ellie was processing the entire Intelligent Solutions payroll.
Ellie (center) reuniting with her U. of Wisconsin friends in Maine, 2001
Always adventurous travelers, in 1986 the Karros took their three young children to England and Scotland to meet their cousins, relatives of David’s English-born mother. Later, their frequent European trips were often built around visits with their now adult kids – son John studied for a semester in Budapest and daughter Jennifer worked for four years in Stuttgart, Germany – or with Ellie’s brother Stuart in Lucerne or with friends in Copenhagen and Tallinn, Estonia.
At John's 2003 wedding, from left: Robert, Jennifer, John, Ellie, David
In 2016 son Robert and his wife Kimberly adopted a baby in China and Ellie and David were there to support the new parents. They now have three grandchildren: John and his wife Laura’s daughters Alex, 15, and Sammy, 13, and Robert and Kimberly’s son Jacob, 5, as well as two cats, Zeta and Zorro.
In May 2017 Ellie and David moved into GHBC, and in less than a year Ellie was on the Resident Council, completing the term of Bill Bozman who had recently passed away. She’s used Microsoft Publisher software and her experience with newsletter publishing to create posters and displays for the Foreign Affairs Committee’s presentations and for the Green Team, and she’s sewn fidget quilts for Terrace residents. Her accounting skills have served her well in cutting checks for the past Employee Gift Fund drives and will again as she co-chairs this year’s campaign.
Twice a Senior Olympian, Ellie has competed in croquet, mahjong and virtual bowling, and she’s selected destinations and calculated the number of steps needed to reach them for the Fitness Center’s summer walking programs; this year’s program was Parks in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia. When covid-19 locked us down in March, she mapped out walking and exercise routes around our campus and calculated their distances.
Ellie at the GHBC wedding dress exhibit, February 2020
Overall, Ellie greatly enjoys life at GHBC and the new friendships she and David have made here. As she explains, “Goodwin House has been a very good fit for me.”
By Jane Coughran