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Dec 4, 2017 3:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Christine Epifania Of Southampton Dies November 20

Dec 7, 2017 9:42 AM

Christine J. Epifania of Southampton died on Monday, November 20, 2017, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, from complications related to cancer. She was 68.

Ms. Epifania was born April 8, 1949, to Rose (Trombino) and Alfred Epifania on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Survivors say it was there where she first experienced the power and beauty of family, community and diversity. This foundation would forever inform and enrich her life and her work.

Trained as a counseling psychologist at Teachers College, Columbia University, Ms. Epifania went on to work as a healthcare director, an executive director and a counselor. At Exponents in New York City, she developed the education syllabus for substance abuse counseling.

She was also a visual artist and had been a chef at Fresno’s Restaurant, and the innkeeper at Centennial House, both in East Hampton.

Her volunteer community work included serving as co-chair of the East End Gay Organization from 2003 to 2006, and as a two-term president of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork. There, as remembered by Bill Dalsimer, her vice president, “Chris was a real force in creating a welcoming community.”

Ms. Epifania became the executive director of Alternatives Counseling Center in Southampton in 2005. She was instrumental in expanding community outreach, guiding the creation of the Riverhead Center, developing drug education for students and parents, and providing services to the Shinnecock Nation. Recently, she was preparing for the center’s future move and expansion of drug rehabilitation services and education.

Ms. Epifania brought her diverse background to all she did. She was Montefiore Hospital’s health services director at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility in New York in the early 1990s, managing and improving healthcare for the entire population there. When she saw that the women inmates did not have a clinic as the men did, she created one.

She also instituted a “Compassionate Release” program for inmates with HIV/AIDS, finding housing for them in sensitive nursing homes, where they could live out their shortened lives with dignity and proper care. She was awarded a Good Samaritan Award for her work there.

She moved to Southampton full time more than 25 years ago after being a weekender for many years. Friends say she was a consummate hostess and hosted many dinner parties and celebrations at the home she shared with her partner of 31 years, the artist and writer Ruth Jacobsen, whom she married in 2013. Friends say she had a special skill for bringing people together from different parts of her life.

Ms. Epifania had a love of laughter and kibitzing. She enjoyed the rowdy poker games often held at her house. Friends said you knew if the game were held at Chris’s, the food would be outstanding. According to friend Jordy Mark, sometimes the players spent more time eating than playing.

During the two years Ms. Epifania was ill, her mobility become more and more limited, but survivors said she would not be stopped. When one road was blocked, she took another and moved forward. Chris had wanted to attend the Women’s March on Washington in January, but her poor health prevented that. Instead, she prepared dinner-to-go for every person on the bus trip that had been organized by her congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork.

In addition to her wife, Ruth Jacobsen, she is survived by a sister Rosemary and brother-in-law Louis Parker; nephew Michael Parker and wife Norma; nephew Kevin Parker; niece Jennifer Parker Garcia and husband Victor; and several great-nieces and a great-nephew, all from California. She is also survived by many cousins, and by the loving family of friends she created.

A Celebration of Christine Epifania will be held December 15 at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of the South Fork at 2 p.m.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, Bridgehampton; Fighting Chance, Sag Harbor; and Alternatives Counseling Center, Southampton.

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