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MONCREIFF, Elisabeth A Warm and Generous Spirit The world was not kind to Elisabeth Moncreiff at the beginning of her life, nor at the end of her life. But in the middle it was glorious. Born in 1932 in Innsbruck to loving parents Paula (Kompacher) and Siegfried Hohenauer, she lived under a Catholic dictatorship until she was 5 and the Nazi dictatorship thereafter; she survived the bombings of Innsbruck and Munich; at the end of the World War, she hitchhiked home from Southern Germany to Austria. She was 12. In 1953, she met Robert Moncreiff. They fell in love and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There she had the life she had always hoped for. Elisabeth died peacefully on May 8th after a long illness. She was predeceased by her beloved husband Bob and her dear son-in-law, Carlos Arrarte. She leaves behind her three children, Anne Arrarte, Philip, and Jane and her son-in-law Josh Passell. Her three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren will miss her warmth, humor, and unconditional love. Liz's gifts were many. French speakers assumed she was a native speaker, English speakers assumed it was English that was her mother tongue, and her German never faltered even after 65 years in America. In her role as a librarian, she also worked in Italian and Spanish and transliterated Russian. In her 20s, she was asked to model, posing with chic eye glasses or the newest skis. She had a lovely singing voice. She made wonderful boeuf bourguignon. She completed the New York Times crossword in pen each Sunday. She knitted gorgeous cabled sweaters and created the perfect English garden in her corner of Cambridge. With Bob, she read Shakespeare's plays aloud as part of the Cambridge Shakespeare Society and, like him, she reveled in the opera and the Red Sox. She had a big laugh and she loved a good movie. She was a good friend to have. As a mother, she never missed a third-grade play or a seventh-grade lacrosse game. She instilled in her children her love of a "good yarn," be it the story of Hermes stealing the cows from his brother Apollo, Semmelweis curing child-bed fever, or the power of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She had an unerring sense of fairness, a warm and generous spirit, a deep understanding of human nature and a stubborn insistence on the difference between "less" and "fewer." In addition to her work as a librarian, she worked at the Center for Survey Research at UMass and later, with a friend, founded Boston Bed and Breakfast, Inc., working with Harvard to help visiting professors and conference attendees stay in the gracious houses of West Cambridge. Eventually, Harvard realized how successful a business it was and asked for a portion of the revenue. Ever smart and practical, Liz agreed—in return for an exclusive contract. Thereafter, a brochure on Boston Bed and Breakfast went out in the mailings with Harvard's conference materials. Liz's professional life was a sideline to her calling as peerless and loving partner to Bob and guardian angel to any child lucky enough to come within her orbit. Liz sold Boston Bed and Breakfast to devote herself to the role of full-time professional grandmother. She nurtured each little person with her whole heart — with an endless supply of paper and crayons and cottage cheese. She would happily sit still for hours if a grandchild fell asleep snuggled across her chest. Parkinson's Disease was a hard ending to her magnificent life. But Liz remained her true self until her death. In the early 1950's, Liz served as a translator for Thornton Wilder on one of his trips through Austria. There she was, stunningly beautiful, smart, funny and speaking excellent English. He asked her what her plans were for her future. She said she hoped to fall in love and have children. He thought it was a great idea. And that is what she did. Burial services will be private. A Celebration of the Lives of Liz and Bob Moncreiff will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Community Therapeutic Day School in Lexington.
Published in The Boston Globe on May 12, 2019
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