Sheila Okin, 75, Therapist and Activist

    Sheila Carrie Okin, an Amagansett community activist and an East End spiritual leader, died on June 28 at Stony Brook University Medical Center after suffering a stroke and falling two days earlier. She was 75.

     For over 30 years, Ms. Okin had a career as a psychotherapist, both in New York and Amagansett.

    She had worked for 23 years at the New Hope Guild Center in Brooklyn as a therapist, becoming head of the school and administrative director.

     Born in New York City to Emanuel Benson and the former Gertrude Ackerman, her family moved to Philadelphia when she was a toddler, where she attended the Germantown Friends School. Her parents encouraged her to explore different religions, but the Quaker faith she saw at school stayed with her throughout her life.

     She graduated from the Germantown Friends School in 1955. She met Leslie Okin, who was to be her future husband, two years later. “We met at Tanglewood, at a hotel, at breakfast,” Mr. Okin said yesterday. By the end of the day, they knew they were going to get married, making it official on Jan. 19, 1958.

    “We both loved jazz,” Mr. Okin said, describing their wedding at Manhattan’s Barbizon Hotel, where they were serenaded by Henry Red Allen, Buster Bailey, and Claude Hopkins.

     Ms. Okin was attending Cornell University when they met, but transferred to Columbia University after they were married, graduating in 1960. She later received a master’s degree in counseling from the Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan and further training at the New Hope Guild.

    In addition to her professional life, Ms. Okin was an activist. Raising her children during the Vietnam War, she became involved in the Women’s Strike for Peace. After moving to Amagansett full-time about 15 years ago, she served for three years as chairwoman of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, a quasi-governmental body. She remained on the panel until her death. She had also facilitated study circles to help immigrants assimilate into East End life and taught English to adult Latino immigrants.

    The couple lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where they raised two children, Claude Okin, who now lives in Amagansett, and Paul Okin of New York City. Vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard as a young couple, they became friendly with Paco Sainz, the artist and bullfighter, who invited them to visit him in Amagansett. They fell in love with it, Mr. Okin said, and spent several summers there before building a house on Main Street.

    Here, Ms. Okin found herself returning to Quakerism. She began attending the local meeting on Sundays at the Wainscott Chapel and became co-clerk of the Peconic Bay Quaker Meeting, encouraging new members and helping them find “the light within.” Her beliefs were said to have made her a calming influence between disparate groups, a useful skill as she became involved with the Amagansett citizens group.

    “She was a great reader,” her husband said, enjoyed music, and loved swimming and tennis. She was a member of Sportime Amagansett.

    In addition to Mr. Okin and her sons, Ms. Okin is survived by a brother, Jonathan Benson, who lives in Pennsylvania, and five grandchildren.

    A service was held at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton on Sunday, after which her ashes were buried at Green River Cemetery in Springs.

    Donations in Ms. Okin’s memory have been suggested for the American Friends Service Committee. They can be forwarded to or sent to A.F.S.C. Development, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia 19102.