Memorial Minute for M. Elisabeth Grace
4/28/1934 – 2/7/2018
Memorial Meeting under the care of Old Chatham Meeting 4/14/18
It is a challenge to choose words in giving tribute to one whose legacy includes many examples of an incomparable writing skill. We in Old Chatham Meeting can only offer gratitude for the many years in which Elisabeth Grace was present among us, sharing her wit and her words in a manner that entertained, educated, challenged us as she quietly modeled an exemplary life.
A Friend since 1958, Elisabeth contributed to the life of Old Chatham Meeting in many ways after settling in Columbia County in 1975. Serving on a number of committees over the years as well as acting as clerk of the Meeting, she contributed to the spiritual life of the meeting through vocal ministry and participation in worship sharing. As a member of Ministry and Counsel, Elisabeth utilized her professional listening skills in supporting others on their spiritual journeys. We learned about the disruption and displacement of war when she spoke of her growing-up years in England during the 1940’s. On work days here at the meetinghouse, Elisabeth tried to convince us that the only real difference between a flower and a weed is location! In her service on the Bob Bacon Memorial Fund, Elisabeth brought her concern for families and especially for LGBTQ folk who were experiencing discrimination and turmoil. And, as president of the board of Friends Burial Ground at Rayville, she was first to arrive for work days, lending her energy and insight to our many restoration and improvement efforts.
It is hard to recall Elisabeth’s life in Columbia County without also remembering that of Kate Dunham, her life partner of 33 years until Kate’s death in 2006. For many years, they co-authored “The Birders’ Corner,” a weekly column in the Chatham Courier. They worked together in the Columbia County Land Conservancy and in the Alan Devoe Bird Club, where they built and maintained trails, led bird walks, and contributed to the newsletter.
Many Old Chatham Friends and neighbors were present for Elisabeth’s 65th birthday celebration at Powell House, and will always remember her delighted amazement when a Scottish bagpiper began playing outside the ballroom windows – a surprise arranged by Kate and a telling example of their devotion to each other. Their compassion for and commitment to protecting and feeding wildlife is legendary, as exemplified by the many bird feeders around their home and also in “Ode to Badger,” a tender tribute to a woodchuck who dined each day in the garden.
In recent years, Elisabeth generously shared her time and her trained therapy dog, Cole, in visits to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. A member of writing groups, she sometimes read her work on public radio, and she was committed to helping other elders to continue living independently.
Elisabeth’s last gift to Old Chatham Meeting was the opportunity to be present with her in her final weeks as she journeyed through the agony of pancreatic cancer. Those among us who offered a ministry of presence to Elisabeth are blessed by that experience, and will join with others for the interment of ashes at Rayville one spring day when the bluebirds have returned to their box and the flowering shadblow tree which Elisabeth planted is in full bloom over the bench inscribed ‘Kate Dunham and Elisabeth Grace.’
Composed by Lyle Jenks, Approved by OCMM at our May Meeting for Business
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