Elizabeth Adda Robinson Ratcliffe
Guest Book
Welcome to this collection of shared remembrances from Elizabeth’s family and friends. Everyone who knew Liz is encouraged to share as little or as much of your own shared time and connection as you would like. Share your memories here. All writings are sent to her son David who will format and include them in the following.
EARR with Aurelia and Emmanuelle at PG
JWR + LWP at Albina No.1
JWR + LWP at Albina No.2
EARR+ JWR + LWP at Albina 2005
EARR, Nov 2004
PAR + EARR + SPP at family reunion
EARR at family reunion
EARR in Mountain Hat
EARR circa 1980s
EARR with femur
EARR with brother Jim Robinson, February 1978
EARR at Esalen, June 1974
EARR portrait, circa February 1970
EARR portrait with DTR and PAR, circa February 1970
EARR portrait, circa February 1970
EARR with MSR, PAR, & HWR for Patty's Junior high school graduation, June 1966
ERR closeup with new Leica camera, 1957
ERR: in Norfolk, Virginia, circa 1947
ERR with JWR, Nancy and Wiley Barker, 1947
ERR on honeymoon at Shag Pond, Maine, October, 1946
ERR and JWR, September, 1946
EAR Senior Year at Wellesley, 1945
EAR with James Wesley Robinson and Mary Stambaugh Robinson, 1943
EAR at Wellesley with classmates in Winter
EAR: Best love to Mother and Daddy, 1940
EAR with stuffed animals
EAR with pals, circa 1934
1933 Passport photograph after furlough in US before returning to China
JWR, EAR, and HSR with cousins Betty Jeanne and Sidney Stambaugh at Yellowstone, 1932
EAR on steps with Pickles, Technow in Shantung Provice
EAR with Pickles and Doll, Technow in Shantung Provice
EAR in girls school, circa 6th grade, 1929
EAR in Paotingfu holding Dollies
EAR in Paotingfu
1925 Passport photograph in Long Beach, CA before going to China
6 Apr 2016 — David Whitehead, from Santa Maria, CA:
Your mom seemed to have great patience and a wonderful kindness about her. I think she and your dad both taught their children about empathy for others, since you all practice it so well. I loved every encounter I had with her. I love how her grandchildren adored her. These are great sources of personal wealth.
8 Apr 2016 — Lewis Perry, from Oakland, CA:
After fourteen years of marriage and numerous trips to interesting places, I have many found memories to call upon. This one is selected to illustrate Liz’s determination and tenacity. We had arrived at the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, as part of a travel cruise. To see anything, we had to disembark and walk with a tour guide around the old part of the city. Liz was determined to take the tour and do the walking. It was a hot day and the streets and sidewalks were rough. Liz was tired and warm by the tour’s end, but she persevered. She had a first hand impression of Malta to remember, and I had the picture of her on tour to recall with admiration and love.
9 Apr 2016 — Carol Robinson King, from Urbanna, VA:
Your mother was a remarkable person. Along with the naturally curly hair that I seem to have her inherited from her, she was a model of an intelligent, independent person who never lost her delight and curiosity in the world around her.
11 Apr 2016 — Rose-Joan Barron, from Leesburg, VA:
My marriage to Jim Robinson (Lepai’s brother) in 1989 brought many pleasures including this loving, unique, intelligent, worldly, fascinating person who immediately became my very close “sister”. We shared: a love for Jim and his clan, books, politics (we usually agreed), Cape Cod, travel, art, good food and much more. Lepai enhanced my life in so many ways; there is now a void but many memories keep her alive for me. Love to all, Rose-Joan
12 Apr 2016 — Nina Vansuch, from Boston, MA:
Liz was 78 when I met her. She had recently been married and was working as a therapist. I found those two events to be stunningly wonderful examples of how life continues to offer rich experiences.
I think of Liz every day, not just because I am her son’s wife, but also because I work in a field that is similar to the one she worked in when I met her. Working with couples, families, and children who are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges was a connection for us, both in our work and our lives paths.
I loved learning about the lemonade Liz made from the lemons in her life [I also love the alliteration of that sentence]. I think of her daily when I work with women who tell me their lives have come apart and they will not be able to survive. Liz created her rich, full, long life by moving forward from being “...cast adrift through divorce into a sea of not knowing”. In writing, “I discovered I needed to learn new ways to move from day to day”, she personifies the struggle many of the women I work with face, and gives an example of hope toward their success.
Liz raised her family, studied hard, and grew new communities of support and connection through her work, church, and travels. She is a great role model for women whose lives take unexpected turns and for that, I hold her in deep admiration and love.
In her honor and memory, I have set up a scholarship in my work for young women who are seeking to change their lives, struggling with as Liz wrote, “the reality of circumstance”, and particularly for those who are educating themselves to work with and support others who have walked in these shoes.
13 Apr 2016 — Connie Young, from Fresno, CA:
Like love, itself, Lepai was many-splendored. Easy going ... cheerful ... loving ... wise ... and always full of praise and affection for those she cherished. Her presence brightened even the most mundane activity.
One of my favorite memories of her was her grand entrance to her 90th birthday party, as we serenaded her with “Hello Dolly”. The room full of well-wishers was a testament to her outgoing and inclusive personality. She was the queen and we were her adoring subjects.
As she did with so many others, she reached out to me and drew me into her circle of love. What a gift it was to have known her.
14 Apr 2016 — Flossie Lewis, from Oakland, CA:
For a gal, who I think, was a private person, it was the way she welcomed me even at 10 a.m. in the morning. Well into her eighties, she performed rather strenuous exercises that I was invited to sit down and watch. Despite those stretches, Liz fought pain every day. She took vicodin, I know, but the way she leaned on her cane told me that pain was a constant battle, and she fought it, with Lew at her side, both taking long walks along the Marina in Berkeley and other long places from which she would return breathless but “mission accomplished”.
She was also a lady who had served her profession well and was proud of her work. She would speak, often speak up, with authority. She spoke her authority not only at resident council meetings, but at those wonderful Saturday night sessions when we would try to deconstruct stories from The New Yorker and Harpers.
And then the long illness followed, and the fear that accompanied the physical trauma. She was, nevertheless, persuaded to stay with us a little longer. She emerged from that long rest physically recovered and seemingly ready to enjoy life. But now “to hell with it” if she didn’t remember everything. Perhaps for the first time she wasn’t going to care, except that she did; and I saw the sadness and the shadow every time she held my hand. We held hands a lot, but there was not much serious talk because what was there to say.
But the joy of turning around in the elevator to hear Liz speaking Chinese with one of the help or one of the residents is something I will not forget. The joy of listening to her missionary days, too. The joy of meeting her family and liking them and being liked by them.
But she really wanted to go. She didn’t like what was happening to her. But the way she would say, “Oh, Flossie”, as if to say, “you’re here”, when I would visit her at the end. That was “welcome home”. For both of us, me and Liz.
16 Apr 2016 — Pamela Robinson, from Oakland, CA:
Liz insisted that we were related. She looked very serious and sure about it. Oh yes! she said. And who could resist that! To be considered family by Liz, what an incredible gift! I didn’t know her well, yet always when I saw her approaching in the hallway, it was like a little song had started inside me. She had that effect. She was, is, a very important and beautiful person in my life.
20 Apr 2016 — Marilyn Perry, from Berkeley, CA:
Moments of silly abandon, related to some fabulous non sequitur or pun she would drop in to the conversation, usually after a couple of glasses of wine, around the dinner table with family. Laughing with Liz was just the best. It was pee-in-your-pants good. Thank you Lepai.
27 Apr 2016 — Ayn Perry, from Yreka, CA:
My family came to Ross’ high school graduation in 2009. Liz and Lewis were very willing and interested in all that went on that day: Graduation, a little open house after at my house and Liz was the life of the party. She met and talked to a lot of people that day, making friends with all and being outgoing and so good at learning about our life in Yreka. I remember after the open house, Ross went to the YMCA to play with his EARR + LWP listenting to Ross and Annoyance playing at Yreka YMCA, June 2009 high school band, called Annoyance. We were so happy to include Liz and Lewis in the music; they came and sat in the shade and listened with rapt attention to them banging out their tunes. I loved Liz for coming and for being willing to engage with everyone that day.
29 Apr 2016 — Ayn Perry, from Yreka, CA:
I ended up at the emergency room with Liz a couple years ago. She was well into her final infirmities by then but we had such a good time that day. I was supposed to be in Oakland to help my dad—this was right before his trigeminal neuralgia surgery. Liz had to go to the hospital for a test of some kind, but when we got there we were transferred to the ER because of her condition. (Unknown to me what that meant at the time—it turned out she had had a blood clot in her leg that moved to lung and lodged there.)
We ended up having a whole day in the ER, visiting with all the various handsome doctors who came in to check on us. We laughed and talked, really about anything and everything. She was in a loop about why we were there. She keep saying she needed to go home, why were we there, she was hungry. And then she would forget the answers and we would laugh some more and she would talk about China or whatever struck her fancy. She spoke Chinese with one of the doctors, no idea what was said.
Eventually I realized they were going to admit her for observation but really the essence of this memory is that we had a blast in the ER doing nothing together for about 8 hours. I will remember this fondly until my memory too fades.
25 May 2016 — Robyn Perry, from Berkeley, CA:
I remember going to visit Grandpa and Liz, probably not too long after they were married and had moved in together. Mom and Ross and I were spending a long family weekend away from life in Yreka. I don’t really remember why, but there was a morning where I was in some sort of pitched battle with my mom, flames fanned by the hormonal bellows of my 15 year old self. The reasons behind the argument are gone now, but I remember being inconsolable, probably causing more commotion in that placid household than it ever usually entertained, given its tenants.
I was upset and Liz found me in the sunny dining room in late morning. “What’s wrong? What is it?” gentle, knowing. I crumpled and just cried while she hugged me. It was one of those times I just didn’t even know what was wrong anymore, but I needed to have a big cry. She just stood there with me for a little while, until I let go. When you are 15 and you don’t know what is overtaking your body and your mind, it’s really important to have someone (besides your parents) who will just be with you, let you cry, and reassure you with their presence. Liz really did that for me that day.
26 May 2016 — Robyn Perry, from Berkeley, CA:
I remember my last conversation with Liz. It was in November of 2015 and the cousins and aunties stopped by to say hi to Liz, since at that point she was bedridden and hadn’t been able to join the family meal we’d had that day. She said we could come in one at a time, so I went in first. I moved close to the bed, sitting in a chair in place for visitors. I took her hand and leaned in close, greeting her, asking her how she was. To be honest, I was bracing myself a little bit, because I knew she had been grumpy lately. I had reminded myself before going in that any anger she had wasn’t to be taken personally, so I was up for anything she was ready to dish out. It seemed to make sense that she was angry — it must be a pain to get old, to have body parts be uncooperative and causing grief. To my surprise, she was utterly kind and reflective...at least at first.
“Oh Robyn, it’s so nice that you’re here. It’s so wonderful that you came.”
“Of course, Liz, we wanted to say hi.” Perhaps I was uncomfortable with the implication that this was some bigger moment. I wasn’t ready to believe this was “it” or something.
“I’ve had such a good life!”
I smiled to her, and worked quietly to take in this bigger moment that it indeed was for her, and for me, if I was willing.
“What a lovely smile you have, Robyn.” I’d rarely heard her say something like this to me. I continued looming over her small frame, smile persisting.
“Thank you, Liz. It’s good to be here with you.”
“What a beautiful smile...” and after a pause, “Why do you have such a big mouth!?” now sounding a bit fed-up.
Taken aback, I laughed. This was what I had been bracing for and it was perfect.
“Well, Liz—“ wondering if an apology of some sort was in order?
“All the better to eat you with, my dear!” and then of course, “What’s that from? What’s that line from again?”
Both of us were trying to pull up the familiar name in our heads, and of course she beat me to it: “Little Red Riding Hood!”
As quickly as the name came to her, she was onto the next, reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, albeit with a bit of creative adaptation of her own. Several times over, she repeated the first few lines, “Let me not to the marriage of two minds / Admit impediments. Love is not love / when it alters when it alteration finds...” Except she kept replacing ‘admit impediments’ with another phrase of her own, which now escapes me. It’s hard to understand how a human mind can both be actively unraveling and showing off its pliant acrobatics at the same time.
I’m grateful for the time I shared with her and witnessed her, both in the early time of knowing her and right there at the end.
17 January 2017 — Lewis Perry, from Berkeley, CA:
By Lewis Perry
Elizabeth Robinson Ratcliffe died over one year ago.
She was my wife of fourteen years and a bit.
Today is the seventeenth of January, 2017.
Her date of death was thirteen months ago.

I have received letters from Kaiser Bereavement
all throughout this first year of loss.
The counselors have been very kind and solicitous
and I have greatly appreciated their attention

At their suggeshon I sponsored a parly
to celebrate the date of birth for Elizabeth.
That was a time when I could share some
precious memories with my good friends.

Today I was searching my recollection
for another precious memory to share.
I want to honor you, Elizabeth,
without dismissing my sense of loss.

Since Valentine’s Day is coming soon
I am recording our Valenhne’s Day dinner date.
The year was 2001, the same year we were married.
It was my attempt to make a big impression.

I had not thought to make a dinner reservation.
We were turned away at four fine diners.
In desperahon I took you to Picante
where we ate Mexican with a noisy crowd.

After dinner I took you to my house
which was across the street from where you lived.
Without much hesitation you got to the point.
“What is it you want, Lewis?” you asked me.

“I want to go on living in my own home
with a woman I can love,” I blurted out.
You were taken somewhat aback by my response.
After a quick recovery, you gave a great rejoinder.

“That was direct,” you quietly averred.
What I didn’t know at the time -
but quickly found out later after conversation -
you were a trained Jungian psychotherapist.

I don’t need to tell anyone about our lives
together for this anniversary occasion.
The rest of the story is predictable, if not mundane.
I loved you, Elizabeth, and I still do.

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