Frances Elizabeth “Beth” Binford

BinfordFrances Elizabeth “Beth” Binford, 91, on January 4, 2020, at Foulkeways retirement community in Gwynedd, Pa., following a brief illness. Beth was born on August 27, 1928, in Indianapolis, Ind. Her mother, Bertha O. (Hallowell) Binford, died five months after Beth’s birth. Her father, Virgil F. Binford, remarried when Beth was two-and-a-half years old. Beth’s father was business manager at Earlham College. Later, during the early 1940s, he managed Shadeland Farms in western Indiana, owned by Thomas J. Watson, chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM). Beth loved summers at her maternal grandparents’ home in Pendleton, Ind. Their attic was full of old postcards, a Victrola, Sousa music, dolls, and children’s books.

In 1950, while a student at Earlham College, Beth and some of her college friends drove across the United States in an old Ford that had two front seats and a rumble seat. They arrived in Los Angeles, Calif., and boarded a cruise ship to Honolulu, Hawaii, where a college roommate’s family hosted them for the summer. Following graduation, Beth, who dressed with style and grace, worked for the vice president of Halle Brothers department stores in Cleveland, Ohio.

Around 1962, Beth began a lifelong relationship with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) as a writer and editor. She worked for AFSC in Skikda, Algeria, at the end of the seven-year Algerian war for independence from France. AFSC delivered food and medicine to refugee camps. Beth described the situation: When the Algerian refugees returned to their village, they found that most of their homes had been destroyed; forests had been burned to the ground; farmers were unable to plant crops due to mines; bullet holes pockmarked buildings and trees; and along the roads were abandoned cars stripped of everything useful.

In the mid-1960s, Beth moved to Philadelphia, Pa., in conjunction with her work for AFSC. She was responsible for publications describing AFSC’s projects as well as for producing its quarterly newsletter Quaker Service Bulletin. A coworker recalls that Beth was gracious when her prose was edited and was kind when editing others’ prose. In the late 1960s, Beth initiated an AFSC recycling fundraising project that continues today. Sales of preowned items—now held at Gwynedd (Pa.) Meeting—have raised more than $600,000 to support AFSC’s projects. Beth retired from AFSC in 1994.

Beth was an active member of Gwynedd Meeting. She coedited the meeting’s newsletter and was a longtime member of the Care and Counsel Committee. Friends remember Beth’s good-natured sense of humor, her generosity, her determination to see the best in people, and her ability to connect with people of all ages.

Beth studied photography at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) during midlife. Her images were memorable. She might see an eye in a peach stem, or an elephant’s trunk in the grain of a wooden deck. She loved cats and was a member of a network of Oriental shorthair enthusiasts.

Beth is survived by her half-brother, J. Dudley Binford.

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