In Memory of Elizabeth Camplese

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.

4 Replies to “In Memory of Elizabeth Camplese”

  1. My Mom wanted me to add a note about how helpful Beth was as they prepared to move to Florida. Beth hauled load after load of things to the dump for them in her pickup truck. Mom also remembers numerous incidents of Beth’s horse, Leo, getting loose (at which point the neighborhood kids would generally retreat into the nearest house), and even one time where he managed to get as far as the highway.

  2. Hello,

    I was just online researching The camplese heritage and I stumbled upon this web site. Im interested in the scholarship. I will be attendning Maranatha Baptist Bible college in the fall.

    Please contact me at markus[underscore]316@hotmail.com.

    [Doug: I’ve obscured Mark’s e-mail address.]

  3. For years, I’ve regretted not asking Christy-Sue Olson (one of Beth’s adopted-in-spirit children) for that copy of Don Quixote (and getting the last laugh), but I have no way to contact her. Perhaps she’ll read this someday, but I expect the book is long gone.

  4. Hi, I was searching the web to learn more about the Camplese last name, and stummbled into here. I read the story about Elizabeth and had to share this with you, I just had a daughter almost 4 years ago, I have named her Elisabeth but with an S not a Z. And then as I read further i saw that your Elizabeth died on May 1st, well that just happens to be my birthday. I thought it was very weird that we had this in common and just had to share. Thanks.

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