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Elizabeth Canfield 1922 - 2017

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Elizabeth Canfield

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July 20, 2018

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July 20, 2018

Please don't submit copyrighted work; original poems, songs or prayers welcomed. reviews all Guest Book entries to ensure appropriate content. Our staff does not correct grammar or spelling. Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
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November 01, 2017
I love reading all these tributes and memories from people whose lives intertwined with Liz's in different ways, and yet everyone describes the same Liz! I can see and hear her through your messages. I'm learning here even more about the greatness of her heart, her courage and generosity. What an amazing person.

The memorial service for Liz was wonderful. We really enjoyed hearing all the speakers and seeing old friends again. I'm sorry we weren't able to stay, as my husband had a health problem he needed to follow up on (an infected elbow, but you don't need to hear more about that). Thank you everybody for sharing your stories. There needs to be a Liz Canfield day every year, to celebrate and remember her life and impact. Jill
October 31, 2017
Liz Canfield was a pioneer, an advocate, a seeker, and much more. Her gifts to me were foundational in my youth to adult years, and in our lifelong relationship.

I met Liz in summer 1963, when I was 17 and volunteering for the California Migrant Ministry in Watts, an impoverished black area not far from my home in Van Nuys, California. It was a different world, with much different rules. The food you could buy there was not so good, but to drive to better (cheaper) stores was impossible for most.

One day Liz came to talk to us about working in poverty areas. She worked closely with women in the housing projects, providing health and pregnancy counseling. She was fluent in Spanish, and would hold meetings in each language. She too lived in Van Nuys, and invited me to contact her when volunteer job ended.

I had parents whose beliefs directly opposed mine about most things. They hated that every summer, I did volunteer work, to be of service in some way. And there were other conflicts. I couldn't wait to call Liz after the summer program in Watts ended.

When I did, she invited me to dinner. I couldn't believe the experience. Present were Liz, her husband, her 12-year old daughter, and Liz's father. Everyone spoke kindly to the other! They talked about the news, school, friends, etc. No one was angry! No topic was forbidden. It was like a miracle! They asked me to talk, which scared me--at my house, openness was not accepted. In fact, I was often sent away from the table mid-meal, since I would say things that my parents didn't like. The Canfields invited me to stay after dinner and talk (another miracle!!!). Before I left, they asked if I'd like to come live with them, and their invitation was sincere. They would help me!! I said yes. Part of my responsibility, Liz explained, was to be with their daughter while both parents were working. And the rest would be to study and get good grades! WOW!

My life changed. Liz hired me to go with her into the projects and help in working with the women. She introduced me to her many friends -- Holocaust survivors, or neighbors -- and to folks related to women's rights activism. She made me part of her extended family. And she introduced me to the arts, music -- let's just say, to another world.

Liz taught me so much by living a life of educated participation in her communityand thus, in the world. When problems arose, she was right there, always avid about providing support and advocacy. I probably don't know all the ways she gave people comfort and counsel.

Liz is the premier model of a life well-lived. I can never thank her enough, and I thank her often, for taking me in, and for sharing with me her life and her wisdom.
October 18, 2017
It is not easy to think of what to say to others in remembering my aunt Liz. She was a multi-faceted woman who lived so differently in each of our lives. Yet I think there may be some ways in which she lived in similar ways in each of our lives. Three words come to mind when I ask myself what was Liz like, what was the essential Liz?

Optimistic, Realistic, and Holistic.

In my experiences of Liz, dating back to my childhood in Van Nuys, California where Liz lived for many years while I was growing up, she was always hopeful that things were going to get better. Not because some imaginary friend in the sky who doled out rewards and punishment was going to intervene in our lives and save us from ourselves and each other, but because we were going to figure out what to do, and we were going to do it. Liz, of course, was going to be one of the chief architects of the figuring out, and be a leader-slash-cheerleader for anyone who would lend a hand in making the plan work.

But she was realistic in knowing that in all of our lives there are setbacks, some are self-induced, and some arise out of bad luck or the fallibilities of others. As an optimistic realist, Liz was great at helping people, including me, to review a situation, identify our own role in its origins and most importantly, construct solution paths to get ourselves out of the mess and back on our way. And even when there was not a problem per se, she was a methodical realistic optimist: I remember in 1992 when she found out there was an opening for the Head of Dance job at UNM. I was finishing my doctorate at NYU and Liz knew I was on the job market. She alerted me to the job, sent information on the department, hosted me at her house and loaned me her car when I came out for an interview, and helped Beth and me find a house when we moved from Brooklyn to Albuquerque. At each step of that process Liz was a realistic optimist, and we would not have been as happy and successful as we were during the 9 years we lived here had Liz not been here for us. She took excellent care of our kids when they were little -- she had the best pretzels and juice boxes and funny stories in town. Those kids, Bridget and Spencer, were her darlings, and we, and they, were lucky to have her. I am glad that Liz was a surrogate grandparent for them.

My strongest memory of Liz dates back to 1998 when I drove her to Santa Fe, to meet Karen at Paul's studio after he died. I think of the word holistic in thinking of Liz because of that day, because of that drive up there. She shared thoughts in a kind of long monologue about various kinds of illness and how they affect people psychologically, about survivors of those who pass at a young age, about arrangements that needed to be made, details that needed to be attended to, about Paul and Maria as children, about her own life as a child, young woman, and adult, about all kinds of things. I so admired her ability to contend with her own grief by naming and honoring the small, sharp, piercing and painful details of it but also by filling out the contours of the bigger picture for herself, for Karen, for all the rest of us. At one point I remember thinking, wow, she is comforting me! It is supposed to be the other way around.

But she saw the world and even her own life holistically she could work on and work out the tiniest details of situations but she saw the big picture, the larger frame, the overarching contexts of things. And I think that was the source and the fuel of her creativity and patience, both of which she appeared to have in abundance. She was a gift to us all, and to so many others, and I'll miss her and never forget her, and never stop trying to live up to the example she set for how to be n the world.
August 23, 2017
Liz was simply the most unique, remarkable person I have ever met. It was a gift to know her, and an honor to count her among my friends.
August 06, 2017
Liz was active at Pacoima Congregational Church (in the LA metropolitan area) in the mid-sixties. The church had a core of people who surrounded and supported the leadership in hopes of making a difference on the side of justice and peace. These were controversial times in which issues of race, poverty, and war were fiercely debated -- especially the Vietnam War. Liz was steadfastly committed . . . but she maintained a calm, urbane quality that helpfully tempered the more fiery impulses among us. She knew who she was. She didn't preach or condescend. She simply lived and spoke with integrity and good humor. She was a peacemaker by example. We deeply respect Liz, we are grateful for her friendship, and we honor her in life and death. Assuming there is a life beyond, we think she is already connecting with the very idealistic folks and calmly and wisely figuring out how to be helpful - especially to the younger, more fiery souls.
August 02, 2017
As I go back some 60 years of memories, Liz came into my acquaintance because of her steadfast work with a man named Sunnen [who] made a monumental effort to help our nation's women...Liz, much to her credit and legacy, had an inquiring mind and a "stick to it nature," prime requirements for the causes she carried... She was one of our important "movers and shakers!" for the rights of women.
July 31, 2017
I've known Liz since about 1985, both as a fellow advocate for justice and as a family friend. She is sorely missed (and sorely needed now as an advocate).
July 30, 2017
My sincerest condolences to you and the family, I am deeply saddened to hear of Liz's passing. She was an instrumental person in my life and her loss is/was one of my deepest fears. Though I only saw her when I returned home, the idea that she is no longer available for long visits is so sad and unsettling for me. Her life is an amazing testament to who she was and her legacy lives on in people like me and all those she touched. She is an incredible creation and I am blessed to have had her in my life...I've put off emailing, as a denial of the events but I suppose Liz would only admonish me for my neglect and the need to face the realities....
July 05, 2017
Liz Canfield was caring and consistently faithful to her deeply held ethical beliefs in freedom and equality like very few I have known in my three quarters of a century on this troubled earth.

She could not stand to be idle, whether it be knitting non-stop during interminable meetings, attendance at her beloved cultural events, or active engagement in one of the many causes she supported.

Our friendship began in the mid 1960s at, of all places, the Pacoima Congregational Church. She was kind of a spiritual den mother and cheer leader for a small group of young political activists engaged in protest against the Vietnam War, racial discrimination and the exploitation of farm workers.

Over the years, through the eyes of a precious friendship. I joined in or watched her with admiration in her work in student health centers, progressive clergy, the LA Free Clinic, LGBTQ rights, women's reproductive health, AIDS, etc. etc. etc.

Liz will be sorely missed, beyond her enormous contribution to human rights and social justice, but as well for her generosity, loyal friendship, positive attitude, and brilliant sense of irony and humor.

Random has taken you, Liz, but you will not soon be forgotten.

Roger Hollander
July 04, 2017
She was a truly unique and vibrant woman. I will never forget her wit, her wonderful intellect, nor her compassion for others.

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Program booklet from Celebration of Life, Oct. 28, 2017 Indomitable (1982) Among the dogwoods

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