I wanted to take the time to focus on something positive that has happened in the last few weeks as a result of Elizabeth’s passing. Jordi and I have been given the gift of Clara Leanor by Elizabeth. She has stayed with us for a few days here and there, and we have been so grateful to get to know her better. She is poised, sad yet strong, loving, wise, young, wonderful. We have had some poignant conversations and home cooked meals. Please come back to us anytime- CL. We admire you, and want to hold you close, yet help you move forward.
I´m not sure who i´m writing to. I guess to everyone who´s loved elizabeth. i just found out today she´s gone. i´m in mexico city, a place she loved. i just came in from spain, another place she loved. both places i´ve learned to love through her stories and her excitment. through the way she taught spanish so that we could communicate with spanish speaking people and love and respect spanish speaking place´s histories. she did that so well, i ended up spending the next ten years in mexico and spain. in both places i´ve always carried her with me in a thought, in an image, in a small conversation in my head.
just last week in el paseo del prado in madrid i remembered elizabeth, we had sat on a bench, we had walked through an exhibit on the spanish civil war. there were photos and there were speakers with sounds of bombs dropping. i remember her crying. i remember her showing me her journal full of drawings, full of writings, full of beautiful human interactions on her journey through europe that i was lucky to have run into her on, her short stop in madrid, 5 days with me and my women´s collective in our temporary squat house between eviction and eviction. she showed up and rolled up her sleeves and cooked with us for 6 hours. she danced with us and joked with us and it felt like she´d been there for years. all of us were impressed with how quickly she connected to people she´d just met. how open she was and how sincere her connections were. she talked to me about her reflections on life, about her travels, about her conections with people, from the mountains to the cities. she was writing a lot and was very present and gave so much love.
i was lucky to have been able to spend that time in madrid with elizabeth and to share her with people i live and grow with. as i teacher she was really anything but traditional. her love and passion for latinamerica and spanish speaking peoples and places with overflowing. from the begninning she taught us not to worry about grammar or the rules of language, but to prioritize communication above all. if we had to use theatre techniques or drawing or any strange body movements, it was welcome as long as we were communicating. we got over our shyness and our search for perfection and starting to get passionate about who we actually wanted to be able to speak spanish to. we learned about the people´s struggles of nicaragua, el salvador, guatemala, méxico, spain… she invited the great Amelia Bruce, her former spanish teacher, to talk about the spanish civil war and the republic. she took us over to the apple orchard to meet the migrant workers after working hours to learn salsa dancing, but of course to learn so so so much more. she was very humble and respectful of people´s histories and we learned to be so as well. and she did not respect traditional borders when it came to her emotions and her honesty and i deeply appreciate that. to explain the mexican traditions around the day of the dead and so that we would understand another cultural lens on life and death, she brought in the altar she had made for her partner who had passed away years before. she showed us his pictures, things she had written. we all cried with her and were so moved by this kind of education that meant sparking interest, curiousity and restlessness inside each of us. it meant searching and not being satisfied with the easy route. it meant learning lessons and finding beauty in the simplest human interactions. Elizabeth deeply inspired me and I was so lucky to have crossed paths with her again and again. She has helped me learn how to celebrate life and how to embrace loss and grow from it.
I love remembering Elizabeth riding her horse so free on the Small Point beach.
I had the fortune of being Elizabeth teacher at the School for International Training, where she received her MA in Teaching English and Spanish. I remember her as a bright, sharp, witty and caring person. She was always ready tohelp people and to share her knowledge. I kept in cotact with her throughout the years after she graduated. I will always have special memories of her.
I remember her at the Summer School. It’s hard to remember that long ago time, but I remember her as quiet and serious, and yet playful when we were in plays together. I think we were in a July Winnie the Pooh play together, when she played Tigger. I think I was Kanga. So we must have spent several hours together in rehearsal. I was always attracted to her spirit and thought she was very beautiful. I also remember her riding her horse on the big beach. We didn’t stay in touch into our adult years, but when I saw Clara Eleonor in a play at the Summer School, I knew she had to be Elizabeth’s daughter. I was very happy to see Elizabeth in the audience afterward. Thank you Susan, Andrew, and Mary Colman, for giving us this way to share our thoughts and sympathy to you all and especially to Clara Eleonor.
I have a jar of dilly beans and a jar of applesauce made by Elizabeth that I opened just before she left the earth and that now have become sacred to me.
I used to run run run from Segontz to Maggie’s farm to play with my friend Elizabeth. I was about 5 years old and I was sure the witch from Hanzel and Gretal or the big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood was going to catch me if I didn’t watch out. We’d swim in the surf with Phoebe Adams and catch green files and make little grass headstones and bury the green flies one by one while we rolled in the warm sand up near the dunes. We sat in the back of Henry’s truck up and over the mountain to Summer School. We rode our ponies on Big Beach galloping galloping galloping on the hard, wet sand. We felt so free and wild. The green flies couldn’t catch us!! We were jitterbugging trees in the Wizard of Oz and giggled our way through our dance. We enjoyed a summer working at SPSS with Katie Blair tromping through the marsh (yee gads to our environmental selves) and Jonas and Timmy were sliding down into the tidal river with glee and mud from head to toe. We found secret hidden thickets loaded with berries until we couldn’t eat anymore. Clara Leonor appeared one summer in her mother’s back pack and we passed and hugged and caught up quickly on a walk up and over the mountain. We walked on Big Beach one night, a few years ago, and saw a light that startled us, as the sun was just going down and Clara Leonor was off at play practice. We walked faster and faster and finally realized it was a reflection in an upper window of Neff. We tried to catch the light another night, but the magic of the moment was a memory. I loved running into Clara Leonor at Cross Country meets in the winter months. Those Putney teams were creative and supportive with each other. Elizabeth, you were bright, with humor, with wit and a warm and inviting smile. You were true and earnest and generous and intuitive. I’ve learned so much more about you in the last few weeks and I shall miss you.
I remember Elizabeth being my dorm parent once a week in Huseby and bringing us her homemade teas and cooking us quesadillas and it was always such a treat. She went out of her way to satisfy others which was such a wonderful quality. She was such an eccentric and thoughtful woman and although I did not know her that well she still left such an impact on many people at the Putney School. My thoughts are with her and she will be deeply missed.
She listened to my stories and let me run wild. i loved her more than anything in the entire world
Elizabeth mentored me in Spanish class and introduced me to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Under her guidance, I was able to translate some of his poems and produced one of my finest projects during Project Week. She was inspirational, kindhearted, and a champion whom I will not forget. Thank you for your influences, Elizabeth.
My first altar for Todos Santos, day of the dead here in Mexico. Here in Chiapas. Elizabeth smirking in her picture frame and the candles around her. The cempazuchitl flowers orange and yellow. I watched the candle flames til they went out. I spoke to her and celebrated her, just like she taught me to…
Elizabeth was my first real visitor after I gave birth to my son at the Putney School in january 2000. I remember her calling to say she was coming over, and panicking because I was feeling so inward and agoraphobic- the big bad world and all. And how gently she blessed me and my son- how she held him in wonder and at peace. I still feel her blessing today. We who are still tethered to this big bad world will miss her strong and steady light.
Elizabeth was my Spanish teacher my first year at Putney. She took us once to visit the migrant workers who worked at the orchard; I remember the respect with which they treated her, and it was so exciting for me to use my Spanish in a real context. We played soccer and they made us tortillas, and on the walls of their house were posters Elizabeth had made them with English words, spelled with Spanish spellings so that they could pronounce them correctly. I was so impressed, not only by her efforts to help them, but also how well she understood how.
I met Elizabeth in Guatemala in 1987. I still remember her beaming smile. She was adventurous, witty, smart, intense and incredibly non-judgemental of my emerging, but terrible, Spanish. We stayed in touch for a while–Boston, SIT, Putney. I remember her ability to endure coulds of Maine misquitos that drove me insane. More recently I’d bump into her ever few years in souther Vermont. The last time I saw her was last fall at Green Mountain Orchards in Putney. She told my boys to ask me if I’d buy them a cider donut. I’m so sorry she has passed, but grateful that she touched so many people in her time here, including me.
In Thursday morning Spanish 4 classes at Putney, Elizabeth encouraged us to thumb through our Spanish songbooks (not unlike the All-School Sing binders we’d just left behind) and pick out our favorites, like Rúmbala and La Cultura es la Sonrisa, so that we could sing them to boombox-accompanied audio and dance with little regard to whoever was supposed to be working in the offices down the hall. I remember that often Elizabeth would pull people just entering the library building into the classroom so conveniently juxtaposed to encourage them to join us in our fun.
I’ve always loved to sing. But since meeting Elizabeth, I’ve encouraged all kinds of people to sing for the sake of singing even if they claim they can’t. Elizabeth was never shy about belting out any tune and I now agree with her that song is far more meaningful and just plain fun when it’s shared!
I remember a time when I was learning Reiki and was at a mutual friend’s house. Elizabeth had a sore neck and I tried my new Reiki on her. She commented, leaning against me, “We need so much more of this. We need to connect with each other.” So right. Sending my thoughts to everyone who knew and loved her and with all of those who felt the connection.
I read all of the comments about Elizabeth and wishh I could have known her! She has left a big hole, but many blessings. Lyna Lou Nordstrom
I worked at the Putney Work Camp one summer and it was always my dream to teach there. It sounds lie Elizabeth made a BIG difference where ever she went.
I told someone recently that she had worked for Peace Brigades International, as a body guard for human rights advocates in Guatemala, so they wouldn’t be killed, and she coordinated others to do the same.
The person immediately said, “How can I get to do something like that?”
Elizabeth was like that; one of the most inspirational people I ever met. She didn’t just talk about justice, she actually believed in it.
She was a wonderful person, and lives on in all of us who she changed.
I met Elizabeth in the summer of 1985 when I was going to UVM and she and I participated in an act of civil disobedience at the Air Force Recruiters office in Burlington. This was during the period when President Reagan was secretly funding the Contras in Nicaragua. We were arrested with a dozen other people and spent the rest of the summer meeting to discuss our use of the “necessity defense.” The group broke into small focus groups and Elizabeth and I met several times by the ferry launch on Lake Champlain to discuss the court case. I was new to political activism at the time and she was one of the people who was instrumental in shaping my thinking. One time when I was In the midst of making some abstract point about political activism Elizabeth stopped me to point out that a reason why Burlington was such a beautiful spot was because of how it was enveloped by the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east. I remember this because ever since then that is how I describe Burlington to anyone I take there. And that is how I will always remember her.
in this quiet moment, the day after Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn to Elizabeth. I first met Elizabeth at Putney School, my sophomore year. I didn’t know her well, but I noticed the lovely and quiet entering freshman. I remember her poise and inner strength, and those were turbulent years at the school. Many years later, I was re-introduced to Elizabeth at Smallpoint. Our daughters were close in age, so we shared those classic parent volunteer moments at the Summer School, painting set scenery and getting our kids to play rehearsals.. Both mother and daughter were so striking: beautiful, full of inner strength and talent, fiercely idealistic and energetic. Then for two summers I was able to stay for a few weeks in the St. John barn, next door to Elizabeth and C.L. in the farmhouse. Those were idyll days. Images of Elizabeth are woven into that time: our “found” moments, when she came to bake in the oven at the barn, a canoe trip with the kids up to spirit pond (where Elizabeth’s athletic feats inspired young tim fitzpatrick to dub her “Action Lady”), Elizabeth fiercely mowing the lawn –ignoring the clouds of mosquitos, the morning she spontaneously suggested we kyack to Fox island, the day Elizabeth and C.L. invited us all to a special “tea” at Neff– I will treasure these memories. Elizabeth brought so much light into the world, in all that she did. Above all she loved and admired her daughter Clara Leonor.
In my heart, there is a pool of warmth, of gratitude for having had Elizabeth in my life.
We had participated in the same birthing class, and I remember noting the loving connection between she and Carlos as well as the fact that they lived in the same part of Boston. Then fifteen months later, we reconnected when I rang a doorbell hoping for my daughter and I to be part of a our first play group. As I stepped into the house and looked up the stairway, there was Elizabeth smiling down at us with her welcoming, kind eyes. Time passed and their lives left Boston for other places in the world. Yet every once in a while, they would pop into town, and make time for the four of us to go on another adventure together. Though I feel much sadness at the realization that this will never again be, my arms stay wide open to Clara Leanor as our always friend and playmate. We forged a special kind of kinship and this timeless connection will never be lost or forgotten.
What I would’ve said yesterday at the wonderful gathering of some 300 at Putney to remember Elizabeth, was simply this. My first memory of her is in Grandmama’s kitchen in Putney when I was 7 and she my 13 year old aunt. (My 3 year old brother and I had moved there to live with them — and 9 year old Mary Colman — when our parents got divorced.) Elizabeth was making something yummy to bake and after she’d scraped it into the pan she gave me the bowl to lick (I was hovering hopefully). What still strikes me is that she left enough batter in the bowl to make it satisfying for me to finish off. She empathized with me and was generous to me. That’s it, except for one other thing, which is how I’ll miss her so very much for the rest of my life. I never imagined she wouldn’t be here, looking out the window at Morse Farm, understanding, explaining, interpreting, confirming life for me, a hugely important north star in my firmament that makes me weep to know I’ll be doing without. Love, Anne-Seymour
A Memory of my Godmother Elizabeth
By Jane Cushman Ellis
Elizabeth and Clara Leonor were coming to Gloucester to visit. My Mom and I drove to the train station in Gloucester, but when we got there we only saw Clara Leonor. On the way home Clara Leonor told us that Elizabeth had decided to walk home from the train station. After about an hour or waiting at home for Elizabeth she finally got home covered in flowers and holding a lot of trash. Then I said “what did you do?” “Well” she said “I saw so many beautiful flowers so I picked them and put them on myself. And I saw so much trash that I decided to pick it up and throw it away.”
I love Elizabeth and I will always miss her.
I met Elizabeth in 1972 when I was a fresh man at the Putney School. She was a junior day student. I have just immigrated to the States in 1969. Moving from Hong Kong, NYC and Putney was a culture shock, but kids are adaptable at that age. I remember sitting and watching the folk dancing classes and enjoying the music. Elizabeth would come over and encourage me to join them. I did in the next quarter. We became very close friends for the next 5 or 6 years until our lives moved apart. We stay in touched on and off for the next 20 plus years.
Playing the recorders.
Learning folk dancing steps in her living room.
Making Cheese Souffle.
Baking Chocolate chip cookies.
Competing how fast one can wash and the other can dry the dishes.
Lying on her Windows seat and she in her bed, we would talk late into the night.
The many cheese sandwiches she would make for me before she sent me off to the bus back to NY or to College. There will always be a Heath bar in the bag.
She introduced me to Arthur Rackham and sent me numbers of Rackham cards filled with notes.
Teaching me how to drive, in first gear, in Connie’s VW station wagon.
Learning that flies at Small Point bites!
Elizabeth sent this poem to me in the late 70’s.
A time to Talk by Robert Frost:
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Elizabeth, you will always be in my heart.
I wanted you all to read this poem by Mary E. Frye. I keep reminding myself that Elizabeth didn´t write it…
Do not stand at my grave and weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Elizabeth was the volunteer coordinator for Peace Brigades International in Guatemala City when I served in July 1986. In those idealistic days we were human shields for indigenous human rights leaders targeted by the death squads. There I interviewed Elizabeth (along with the other PBI volunteers) and would be glad to send a pdf file of the interview to any friend who requests it (at firstname.lastname@example.org). Although she was the liveliest, most effective, bravest, and best loved of the volunteers, this dark interview portends her death.
We hiked together in Anza Borrego Desert, CA, before she married Carlos. Elizabeth was game for any adventure and very adaptable. When ants appeared in the granola, she added milk to the bowl and ate them down with the cereal. By long-distance telephone, she shared with me the stages of Carlos’s coma and death, which she resolutely apprehended.
Decades later, in Becket, MA, we boated and swam in a small lake. I could not imagine water could drown her. But then I did not engage the sinkable part of her. I left that part unattended in my interview files, until a few days ago when I learned of her suicide.
[…] Remembrances « Elizabeth St. JohnNaomi Scher. Anne-Seymour St. John says: November 28, 2011 at 8:35 am. What I would’ve said yesterday at the wonderful gathering of some 300 at Putney to … […]
Thank you for putting together this website in recognition of Elizabeth. Since I know none of her friends or family, I just learned of her death this fall. I very much want to share my close, personal memories of Elizabeth, but I am not willing to do so on-line. I’m just too old-fashioned, I guess. Susan, please, please, please send me your email–or street address–so that I might share my vivid memories with you. Also, I have a DVD of a video from the Burlington Sanctury movement days, which you may have if you like. Cynthia
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