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Elizabeth Wolf ’59

April 1, 1942 - January 24, 2022


Published by New York on Jan. 28, 2022

Elizabeth J. Wolf, passed away unexpectedly Monday, January 24th at home. Being the lovely, understated woman she was, a graveside service will take place at 1pm on Friday, January 28th at The Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla. Gifts in her memory can be sent to Wheaton College, for the fund established by Elizabeth's father, Morton S. Wolf, for the Department of Art.


As reported by Abigail B. Calkin ’59

Elizabeth and I were close friends. We were in second grade together but not close. When 10 or 11, we lived across the avenue, Fifth Avenue, from one another and four years later across the privacy of Washington Mews, she at #64 and I at #4. We could look across the Mews to see if the lights were on and knew it was still good to call one another in the late evening. Most people probably remember Elizabeth as a very sweet, private, reserved lady, and no one would ever call her anything but a lady. To many she was a warm friend in school. To me, she was my closest friend. On reflection now, she was reserved to others, but not in our friendship. We shared many secrets and plotted events together. One was working on double dates so one of us could go out with someone we had a crush on. The Mews was a good place for sleepovers, for each of us had a house with a basement and we gathered there. One of my favorite events was the champagne party her parents gave for us when we graduated from Friends. The gathering wandered out the door into the Mews. Her parents soon came out to gather us indoors since most of us were 17, not of the legal drinking age of 18 in the city at the time.

Elizabeth’s parents had a house on Premium Point in New Rochelle. A few of us went out there to spend the weekend. I went often and she and I gamely explored the rocky waterfront, on occasion getting trapped by the incoming tide. Once we made it across just before the tide blocked our way to her home. Another time, we had to go up across the rocks onto someone’s land, not really something done onto someone else’s security controlled property, but we two fifteen-year-olds smiled our way across. It’s events like this that helped me not to see Elizabeth as shy and reserved. Mr. Shank had given the assignment to write something about New York City. We knew he did not like us and seemed to routinely give us poor (B- or C) grades. Here were two girls who lived on Fifth Avenue and Washington Mews. Her father owned an international chain of hotels. My father was president of a chemical consulting company. We both had large second homes outside the city. What did we know about the reality of New York? Nothing. As we walked up 14 th Street and passed Union Square, we paused. Elizabeth suggested we interview the usual population of Union Square bums. I followed her lead and into the Square we went. It didn’t take long for a group of bums to gather around us. They had worked Madison Avenue or similar jobs, but alcohol had taken its toll. Divorce and job loss ensued. They dressed in the worn-out attire of mismatched suits as if trying to maintain the dignity of their once successful lives. One showed us a picture of his suburban home, family car with he, his wife and three children. Another one bought a rose and handed it to Elizabeth. These men were delighted to have someone, anyone, interested in their lives. Here we were two girls probably about the age of their daughters. School had let out at 3:00. By the time we left for home it was at least 6:30. From Union Square to Washington Mews, we talked about what we each would write. We had found a unique part of the city that neither of us, nor probably anyone else in our class, knew. Finally, we each would have a story worthy of an A. We arrived home four hours late and very late for supper. Our parents were frantic and constantly sharing the Have you heard from them, No have you? Before we arrived home they were convinced we’d been kidnapped. We arrived still excited about this wonderful opportunity for unique stories. Their concern quickly silenced our chatter. Unbeknownst to either of us, before we arrived in English the next day, our parents, irate about the assignment, had called the school. Mr. Shank announced the assignment was canceled. He gave no explanation, but she and I exchanged the knowing look of disappointment of what we had caused. While probably all our classmates viewed her as shy, I saw a side of her that most never glimpsed. Her career was with the French Embassy. She spoke fluent French, was an administrative secretary and after that, in charge of their trade shows all over at least the western world. After I had moved to Oregon, she sent me a letter with the unusual gift of five pine seeds. I planted them and to my regret, none survived. In those later years of our friendship, we sent letters and cards to one another, shared the stories of our respective love lives—hm, sounds like Friend Seminary again. I stayed with her for a few nights on a couple of my visits back to the city, and yes, she led a quiet and reserved life then, but we still shared our secrets. When I didn’t hear from her in the past year, I worried and knew she was not in prime condition. As Sturges said in yesterday’s email to Julie and me, “Every day brings more news of loss. Sigh.” Sigh I do, but as always, I know my secrets are safe with her.


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