Note: I’ve created a second site now as a living memorial for Beth. It’s at http://camplese.wilcoxfamily.net/.
We received a phone call today from Christy-Sue Olson, a classmate I haven’t seen since junior high school, with some sad news. Beth Camplese, who lived just about across the street from where I grew up in Easton, passed away at Mass. General Hospital on May 1, succumbing to a battle with lymphoma, complicated by pneumonia and infections. (I think we all expected her to outlive us, if by nothing else than sheer stubborness.)
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 7, 2003, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at the Copeland Funeral Home, 38 Center Street, North Easton, Ma.
In respect for Beth’s wishes (and in lieu of flowers), a scholarship fund in honor of Beth’s lifelong devotion to teaching has been set up. Donations may be made to the Elizabeth Camplese Scholarship Fund, c/o Washington Irving School, 105 Cummings Hwy., Roslindale, MA 02131 (617-635-8072).
Beth was a teacher at the Washington Irving Middle School in Boston. She was a fascinating person, with a fiercely independent spirit, a wide range of talents, a love for books, a willingness to share what she had, and a complete lack of prejudice of any kind.
She enjoyed taking care of animals, including, among the years, sheep, goats, a retried race horse, dogs, and geese. (The meter readers used to hate going to her house.)
Following are a few (of many) memories I have of her.
- Her house was full of books. In fact, she started a book store at the Washington Irving School, and I would sometimes buy some titles of interest from her to aid the bookstore, called “The WISE Place.” One book she refused to sell to me was a copy of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, in Spanish, published in Barcelona—I kept haggling, but she never relented.
- When I was in elementary school, I remember repeated run-ins with her sheep, especially one particularly ornery one named Saffy—Sheep can kick, and this one seemed to enjoy kicking me repeatedly.
- My brother, Aaron, when he was only 2 or 3, had one of her geese grab his coat through the fence, and it just wouldn’t let go. (Maybe the coat was goose down?) Better his coat than his fingers, I suppose.
- When I left for college, my parents moved to Florida. Beth let me store my things in a room at her place. I made 17 trips over, but her kindness let me hang on to many things that otherwise would have been lost.
- One time someone snatched her purse on the subway, and she chased him down. I don’t think she caught him, and remember her friends were mortified. “What if he’d had a gun?” I doubt that would have impeded her retribution. It might have been better to ask, “What if she’d caught up with him?”
- My favorite story regards her long-standing problem with dozens of pigeons taking up roost in her eaves and gutters. They made a terrible mess of her house for years. My wife, Nichelle, and I, when our son, Isaac, was an infant, were visiting her, when I asked, “What happened to the pigeons?” She replied with a wicked gleam and a laugh, “I shot them all.” She had done exactly that, over a period of weeks.
The world is a poorer place without her.