Helen Meredith Ellis Little

Little—Helen Meredith Ellis Little, 86, on May 15, 2020, peacefully, in Tucson, Ariz. Meredith was born on March 10, 1934, to Helen Hoglund Ellis and Agler B. Ellis in Stockton, Calif. She took to the piano as a child, often playing duets with her father.

Music became the refrain of Meredith’s life. She earned undergraduate and doctorate degrees in musicology from Stanford University. She conducted research in Paris, France, on a Fulbright Scholarship. She coauthored the book Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach, as well as numerous scholarly articles. At Stanford, Meredith taught early music and directed performances in Baroque ballo. She was an assistant professor of music at Oakland University in Michigan; a faculty member at the Aston Magna Academy of Music at Rutgers University in New Jersey; and taught music at American University in Washington, D.C., and at the University of Arizona.

Meredith loved backpacking and hiking, particularly in Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks. She and John Little were married in the chapel in Yosemite Valley in 1969. The couple had two children, Christopher and Bernice. Beginning in 1977, the family resided in Tucson, Ariz. Meredith and John divorced in 2012.

After a fulfilling career in music, Meredith attended the University of Arizona College of Law, earning her juris doctor degree in 1990 at the age of 56. She practiced law in Tucson for 17 years.

Meredith was the cofounder of Southside Community School in Tucson and was a board member of the Food Conspiracy, a local cooperative. In 2015, she published the book, In the Spirit of Love: The Remarkable Story of Gerhard and Helene Fritzsche.

Meredith was introduced to Quakerism in her mid 30s when she attended Sandy Spring (Md.) Meeting. After moving to Tucson, Meredith became a member of Pima Meeting. She taught Quakerism classes and nonviolence classes, clerked both Pima Meeting and Arizona Half Yearly Meeting, and served on Ministry and Counsel of Intermountain Yearly Meeting.

Pima Meeting was a nexus of the Sanctuary Movement. Meredith was in the heart and heat of the work. She was a member of the Joint Service Project Committee of American Friends Service Committee and served on the Tucson Committee of AFSC.

In 2012, Meredith heard that Casa Mariposa, an intentional community, was closing for lack of funds. The community’s primary work was offering short-term hospitality to immigrants. Hearing this, Meredith bought the community a house and the ministry was able to continue at a crucial time when families were being brought nightly without food or money to the local Greyhound station by Border Patrol agents. Meredith had an uncanny way of being at the right place at the right time.

In 2002, Meredith and Jane Kroesen met at Pima Meeting. The two became fast friends and frequent hiking partners. Over time their relationship deepened, and in 2010 they committed to spending their remaining lives together. In 2008, Meredith suffered an intracranial bleed deep in her brain. After a year and a half of rehabilitation, she closed her law practice and lived a quiet life with Jane.

Meredith approached life with curiosity. She was intrigued by people’s lives and their stories. Friends recall Meredith’s kindness, attentiveness, and authenticity. She saw the earth’s beauty and inhabitants and celebrated them, saw injustice and struggled to right it, and listened to the still, small voice and abided by it.

Meredith is survived by two children, Christopher Little (Stephany) and Bernice Little (Christopher); her former husband, John W. Little; her sister, Julie Higbee; her niece and nephew; and her dear friend, Jane.

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