Takoma Park native Valerie Silver Ellis, 46, relished New York’s challenges. She could broker a major securities trade, duplicate a complex restaurant recipe and track down large donations for causes that included AIDS, hospice care and companion dogs for the disabled. She loved going to the theater and concerts.She could also plan and carry out elaborate practical jokes. A colleague was on the phone from Los Angeles, discussing just such an idea, when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Smoke soon filled Mrs. Ellis’s office on the 104th floor.She is among the 700 people missing from the large bond brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald, where she worked for 18 years. As a top trader, she was one of the first women to make partner in the equities division.

« She functioned in a very tough business, » said her brother, Stephen Silver. « Trading is a man’s world. »

Mrs. Ellis lived in a brownstone on 14th Street, about two miles north of the trade center, with her husband, theatrical producer Sam Ellis, and their Jack Russell terrier, Spudley.

After 5 p.m., she would turn her considerable energies to gardening, cooking, entertaining, and working for organizations that included Broadway Cares, the National Dance Institute and the Wall Street Charity Fund. On weekends, the Ellises would travel to their beach house in Westhampton, N.Y.

Mrs. Ellis was used to being on top her of game, relatives said. She was the first female president of a graduating class at the Takoma Academy and was a 1977 honors graduate of the University of Maryland.

She had hoped for a career in government, but right out of college, she took a job as a receptionist with the Disclosure Inc. financial information firm. Within days, Silver said, officials recognized her potential and transferred her to a marketing job.

She worked for Disclosure in Washington, New York and California before going into the securities business. She joined Cantor Fitzgerald as a trainee in 1981.

Only one thing about her work made her uneasy, her brother said: As a survivor of the 1993 bombing attack on the World Trade Center, which killed six people, she worried about being stuck in an office at the top of the building. She hoped that her company, an original tenant of the center, would eventually move. Silver remembers what she said: « Let somebody with more money than brains take this space. »

In addition to her husband and brother, of Hockessin, Del., survivors include her mother, Joan Silver of Takoma Park, and a sister, Beth DeGoede of Severna Park.