You are here

Family will share Laura Elliott-Engel’s ‘wonderful life’ through tribute

On a personal note, I'd like to share news of an event my family has organized in honor of our mother, Laura Elliott-Engel. I was always so proud of Mom for getting sober at the age of 28 and then spending the rest of her career helping people recover from addictions herself. We are holding a showing of It's A Wonderful Life in the Olean, New York, community where she was the executive director of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services for 13 years. Mom always said that movie's message of redemption helped save her life when she was still drinking.

This is the full text of the article that the local paper ran about the event:

Laura Elliott-Engel loved the message from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” so much that she often told her family that it likely saved her life.

Elliott-Engel’s love of the classic film inspired her children to name an upcoming holiday tribute to their late mother, “It’s A Wonderful Life: Remarks and a Film Showing in Honor of Laura Elliott-Engel.”

The public event, slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, will be held in Jamestown Community College’s CUTCO Theater at 305 N. Barry St. The event is free, but optional donations will be accepted in support of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services (CAReS), Inc., which provides counseling, intervention and prevention services in Cattaraugus County. Remarks and a film clip about about Elliott-Engel will begin at 6:40 p.m., followed by the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Elliott-Engel, who died in early November after a brief battle with cancer, was best known in the community as executive director of CAReS from 2002 to 2015. During her tenure with CAReS, Elliott-Engel expanded the agency in the county by adding offices in Machias and Gowanda. The agency also increased its homeless housing to include the Solutions to End Homelessness Program with jail-based services. Additionally, CAReS worked to improve the community’s health through Cattaraugus County’s Healthy Livable Communities Consortium.

Elliott-Engel was named a Woman of Distinction for 2002 by the New York State Senate for her contributions to society. She also received the 2009 Good News Award from the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.

Her daughter, Amaris Elliott-Engel, and her brother Jeremy, arranged the tribute, as their mother’s funeral services were held in her home community of Rochester. Since their mother spent so much of her professional life in Olean helping people in recovery, they wanted to share a celebration of her life with the community.

Amaris Elliott-Engel said her mother was the face of addiction recovery, as she had just celebrated 40 years of sobriety from alcoholism in June.

“The video we’re going to show of her is an interview when she talked about her experience about being in recovery,” Amaris Elliott- Engel said. “She talked about her sobriety and she didn’t keep it a secret, but I talked about it more than she did.”

She said her mother was her hero because of her candidness with her and others about the disease.

“Her alcoholism was so bad that when she was 28, she almost drank herself to death,” her daughter shared. “She came back from that and went on to have this career where she helped so many other people.”

When Laura Elliott-Engel was in the throes of alcoholism she believed “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the holiday classic’s message of hope and redemption saved her life.

“The message of that movie helped her to get sober,” Amaris Elliott-Engel added. “That’s why we want to show it — and she loved watching it every holiday season.”