Isabel Best

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Isabel Stow Lovejoy Best was born in Asheville, NC in 1939, as the eldest of five sisters, into a family that was dedicated to serving the Church, and which moved frequently in this calling. F rom 1947-50 she lived in China where her father served as representative of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. They then settled in California where she graduated from Berkeley High School in 1957. She studied at the Collge Cvenol in France for a year, then attended Oberlin College. After graduating in 1961, she spent two years in Germany, working in Quaker Neighborhood Centers in Cologne and Berlin through the American Friends Services Committee. The friends she made and maintained, and this outlook as a citizen of the world, remained with her throughout her life. Isabel was committed to civil rights, and advocated for peace and caring for the Creation. During the early 1960s, she spent a summer in Alabama with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, registering black voters. She knew she would likely be arrested, and indeed spent a weekend in jail for her efforts on behalf of the elementary right of all Americans to vote. She met Tom Best while working for the Student Christian Movement in New England, and they married in Cambridge, MA in 1966. Over the next 47 years, they would live in Oxford, England; Dallas, TX; San Anselmo, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Tuebingen, Germany; and Geneva, Switzerland, before retiring to Belmont, MA in 2007. They raised a daughter Sarah and son Will, both incredible persons in their own right. In Switzerland, Isabel worked as an administrative assistant for the World Wildlife Fund and later for the Conference of European Churches, where she was respected for her fluency in three languages as well as the new computer systems coming into use. In 1995 she qualified for the Diploma in Translation from the Institute of Linguists in London. This was cause for much rejoicing for her family and colleagues, for we knew she had found her true vocation at age 55. In addition to translating numerous contemporary texts for international ecumenical organizations, she became highly respected as a translator of German and French works from the World War II era. These included the Diary of Raymond-Raoul Lambert, who led the Union of French Jews during the German occupation, and especially works of the anti-Nazi theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Besides work on several volumes of the official edition of Bonhoeffer Works in English, her translations include the most recent biography of Bonhoeffer by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen and - perhaps her proudest accomplishment - The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which she compiled, edited, and brilliantly introduced. Isabel was also an artist, crafter and storyteller throughout her life. As a child she loved to draw - paper dolls, pictures of children, Christmas cards, illustrations for books she was reading. She made Christmas stockings for everyone in her family, hand-painted a plaster crche, and sewed, wove, and knitted countless dresses, shirts, blankets and capes for people, dolls, and stuffed animals. She loved to sing as well, everything from lullabies to hymns to silly songs about ducks, and she had a great memory for words. In Belmont, Isabel found a loving church home and community at Payson Park Church. She particularly enjoyed singing in the choir and time spent with the knitting circle, as well as her efforts on behalf of the Christian witness to preserving Gods creation. Her memorial service there featured texts and hymns she herself had chosen. Isabel lived with pulmonary arterial hypertension since 2004. This is a rare and incurable condition which causes shortness of breath and severe right heart damage. In spite of the challenges presented by her condition, she traveled to her 50th college reunion at Oberlin and her sons wedding in Hawaii in 2011, and went on a cruise in northeastern Canada with her husband just last summer. She died peacefully at her home in Belmont on December 19, 2013, surrounded by family and friends, and enfolded by their love. Besides her husband of 47 years, she leaves her daughter and son, their families - including one granddaughter, with another grandchild on the way! - four sisters, extended family and many admiring friends and colleagues both in the United States and abroad.. Thanks be to God for her life so well lived!

Published in The Belmont Citizen-Herald from Dec. 28, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014