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Spiritual Life

Passages: Beth Hiller Memorial Service

September 20, 2012

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A memorial service for Beth Hiller will be held on Saturday, September 29th at 11 AM in Agnes Flanagan Chapel.  A reception will follow in Stamm Dining Room in Templeton.


Those who knew Elizabeth Leiby Hiller will remember her as a tirelessly enthusiastic traveler, friend, gardener, listener, knitter, lover and mother. Forever looking for adventure, it took less than ten words to talk her into a drive to the coast to climb Mt. Neahkahnie, a hike to Ramona Falls or a trip to Costa Rica. It’s fair to say that she was always game. On top of that, inviting Beth usually meant that a cooler of snacks and sandwiches fastidiously packed to NASA tolerances would appear with her!

As a child in Philadelphia, PA, Beth was known as Mary Elizabeth Leiby, daughter of Mary Hiller and Harry Leiby and younger sister of Jonathan Leiby now of Woods Hole, MA. She attended Friends Central School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history of religion at Earlham College. In 1961 she married Dr. Robert Ho with whom she would have four boys, Keith, Lin, Chris and Pete. For the next 34 years she would be known as Elizabeth Leiby Ho. The couple started out in Detroit, MI, moved to Des Moines, IA and eventually made their way West to Portland Oregon in 1965.

In 1979 Beth and Robert divorced. Beth quickly found work at First Interstate Bank and entered what would be an 11 year relationship with writer, Ed Richter. The eighties were hard for Beth. She lost both of her parents and suffered the most formative event of her life, the loss of her sons Keith and Lin to suicide. The nineties would be a period of picking up the pieces for Beth. Her relationship with Ed came to a close and she moved on from First Interstate Bank to explore different career paths. She also legally adopted her mother’s maiden name. Beth Ho was now Beth Hiller.

In 1993 Beth found a place that truly spoke to her on the campus of Lewis & Clark College. She found rewarding work in the College Relations department where she eventually became Director of Donor Relations. Her life took another turn for the better when she reconnected with Jan Kem, an Earlham classmate who had recently relocated to Oregon. 

Beth finally retired from full time work in 2004 at the age of 65. In retirement she was even harder to slow down! She was active in the First Unitarian Church, served on the board of Outside-In, knitted sweaters, socks and hats for loved ones, engaged in heated Scrabble battles and lent a dependably compassionate ear to hundreds of friends and family members. She also traveled extensively, leaving footprints everywhere from Australia to Panama to Turkey and beyond. 

On her most recent trip with Jan to visit family on the East Coast, Beth experienced abdominal pain that seemed unusual. The day after her return to Portland she was diagnosed with late-stage metastasized liver cancer. She experienced an extremely rapid decline in health and was admitted to Hopewell House Hospice on September 5. With Jan at her bedside, Beth’s sons Chris and Pete held her hands as she exhaled her last breath. It was September 6 at 12:42 PM.

Beth is survived by her brother, Jon Leiby, her sons, Chris and Pete Ho, her partner, Jan Kem, and her children-by-volition, Barbara Stroud and David Richter. Her family asks that gifts in her honor be made to Outside-In.

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