Letter: Goodbye, Elizabeth

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On Thursday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m., a respectable crowd of familiar faces gathered at All Saints Episcopal Church to say goodbye to Great Neck’s fiercest community advocate, Elizabeth Allen. To say that it was raining would be a serious understatement. On a day that will be forever marked by wind gusts of angry rain uncommon for January, Elizabeth’s estranged older sister, Patricia Dreyfuss, seemed to soften with the warm sentiments expressed by those willing to stand, soaked, on muddy church grounds to pay their respects.

For 20 minutes while the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s chaplain delivered a eulogy which included Psalm 23, the heavens held back as if to honor Elizabeth. And when Ms. Dreyfuss spontaneously recited her sister’s beloved childhood bedtime prayer, those in attendance recognized that an exquisite miracle had occurred. One sister who was estranged from the other—for 30 years—appeared to have a breakthrough moment. It was unmistakable.

Funeral attendees stood transfixed as Ms. Dreyfuss recited the words: “Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”

At the completion of the formal eulogy, the chaplain inquired if friends and decades-long neighbors had thoughts to express. What was easily agreed upon, was that Elizabeth fought hard to preserve and protect nature and all living things. No living thing was too small to garner her attention. She was passionate about her personal garden, where she grew wild raspberries and currants. She made her own jam and stored it in mason jars she prepared herself. She fed the birds daily. And, in her lifetime, Elizabeth enjoyed the companionship of her dog, Bailey, and more recently a devoted cat. We learned that she had adored adventure and sailing. What was not said was that she was a devotee of Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, which she would often tell me had the best peaches.

Elizabeth, all agreed, was a brilliant, learned woman who could easily converse on any number of topics. It would be safe to say that if you interacted with Elizabeth, you came away a more informed, enlightened individual, possibly inspired to fight for the good of your community. This, I think, would please her very much.

The Elizabeth Anne Allen I knew was not an easy woman to know, but she inspired me greatly and for this I will be forever grateful. Sadly, she is gone too soon. There was so much more I wanted to learn.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth, and rest assured the community you loved and inspired will do you proud. You can count on it.

To honor the environmentalist and community advocate, contribute to the tree fund at the Great Neck Park District by sending checks to Dorina Bradley, Secretary, Great Neck Park District, 5 Beach Rd., Great Neck, NY 11023 or call 516-482-0181.

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