Some unfortunate news passed on to us today regarding the passing of a longtime TPS member and valued member of the artistic community:
Elizabeth Louise Pelham
1930 – 2012
Elizabeth will perhaps be most remembered for all the work she has done in the Theatre, not only on the stage acting, but also her work as a Producer and Director. She was most recently the editor of the Seattle Repertory Organization “Backstage News.” She also established the Paragon Players’, which included the acting troop “The Jongleurs”. Although the theatre was a very big part of her life, she was also active with the Seattle Jazz Society.
That however, does not tell her whole story. Born on a farm during the depression in Brookfield Missouri, she was the eldest child of Leo and Mildred Wickizer. Her younger brother Wayne survives her. Growing up on a farm and during the depression had its own challenges, and all of these shaped the foundation of what she believed, to take nothing for granted and appreciate even the smallest things in life.
She eventually moved with her family from Missouri to Chicago and then to the Pacific Northwest. The move from Chicago had a very lasting memory for Elizabeth because she was able to travel out West on the Empire Builder Train in June 1942. She would often reminisce about that trip and this past June she was given one of the best gifts anyone could give her, another chance to take that trip on the Empire Builder. We have the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation to thank for their generosity in not only organizing that trip but also funding it. I know that Elizabeth was profoundly grateful.
In 1942 her father got a job in the Bremerton Navy Yard and they first lived in Port Orchard in a trailer camp but eventually moved to Shelton to live on a farm. Elizabeth has fond memories of growing up on a farm. Work was hard, but she and her brother spent many days playing in the woods, exploring abandoned railways and plowing the fields with her father.
Elizabeth comes from a time when people made do with what they had and were resourceful. The week before her High School Graduation, she came home to find their house had burned down. They set up camp in the fruit cellar and used tents. They didn’t have showers, so used an old tin bath to get clean. Clothes were washed by hand and when she went off to college, she went to the feed store and picked out feed sacks to make her own clothes. When she finished High School she went to L.A. to attend the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. She managed two semesters, but her passion was for the theatre. She somehow managed to get into UCLA where she studied Drama and Child Psychology. She managed to pay for her studies by playing the accordion and was spotted in a group and got a break to play for the Roy Rogers and Sons of the Pioneer. She was also a keen pianist.
Her whole life although seemingly wrapped up in theatre, music and her day job as a book keeper; Elizabeth still found time to host over 200 students from Japan, Russia, China, Poland, France and England – and they came to think of her as their ‘American Mom.’ She was mother to her five children Jon, Ruth, Heather, Tim and Heidi; and although she was busy with all her other endeavors, she was able to enrich their lives with the love of music, theatre, dinner parties, entertaining, conversation and debate, Christmas and the pixies, Thanksgiving, and a very unique collection of ‘Elizabeth’ words and phrases. She was our loving mother and much more. Forever loved, forever missed.
“I mean there are times when I cringe when I think about my life. I think now – listening to different people, that maybe there were things that are hard to forgive, but that have made all of us who we are today. And if we can accept those things and instead of seeing them as a regret, look past them and see that our lives have only been enriched by those experiences.” Elizabeth
Sunday the 26th of August 2012
Tabernacle Baptist Church
16508 8th Ave. N.E.
24005 52nd Ave. W.
Mountlake Terrace, 98043