Milestones December 2013

Benfey—Rachel Elizabeth Thomas Benfey, 86, peacefully, on September 22, 2013, at Friends Homes at Guilford in Greensboro, N.C. Rachel was born on March 30, 1927, in Raleigh, N.C., to Lora Mae Norman and Raymond Alexander Thomas. She grew up during the Depression in Cameron, N.C., was valedictorian of her class, and graduated in 1948 from Guilford College, where she took art classes with Ebbie Kent. She was engaged to marry Sergei Thomas that summer, but he tragically died in a canoe accident. When she came to teach at Haverford Friends School in Haverford, Pa., she met Theodor Benfey, who was teaching at Haverford College, and they married in 1949. In 1956, they moved to Richmond, Ind., to teach at Earlham College. She continued to develop her art at Earlham, where she taught art for elementary school teachers and became head of Trueblood Child Development Center. They moved to Greensboro in 1973 for Ted to teach at Guilford, and she created a Quaker pre-school called A Child’s Garden, donating it to New Garden Friends School in 1987. At Guilford, she further developed her art, studying with Roy Nydorf. She also studied art in Vienna and Japan, and one of her talents was textile dyeing, including batik and katazome methods, which she exhibited and lectured about. After Ted retired from Guilford, they moved to Philadelphia, and she worked in the Children’s Museum. They lived for a while in the Bryn Gweled community outside Philadelphia before returning to Greensboro, where they attended Friendship Meeting and joined Friends Homes. She once again worked with Ebbie Kent, helping her with the art displays in Friends Homes. Rachel was a beloved companion to Ted for 64 years; a beloved sister; a loving and beloved matriarch of three sons, a daughter, their spouses, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild; and an artist, teacher, pre-school founder, and superb cook. Courageous and supportive, she made every action meaningful. When Rachel looked to her departure from life, she often thought of the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” And she chose as her last words: “I enjoyed living.” One of the founders of Greensboro’s hospice program, she died under its care, and the family gives thanks to Priscilla and Mel Zuck, the Whittier nursing staff, and the hospice nurses for their loving attention. Rachel is survived by her husband, Theodor Benfey; four children, Stephen Benfey (Kikue Kotani), Philip Benfey (Elisabeth), Christopher Benfey (Mickey Rathbun), and Karen Boyd (Bobby); eight grandchildren; one great-grandchild; three siblings, John Wesley Thomas, Nancy Hampton, and Velma Howard; and the widow of her brother Alec, Juanita Thomas. At her request there will not be a memorial service. Instead, her husband would appreciate your writing and sending to him what you might have said remembering Rachel, which he hopes to compile into a memorial booklet in her honor (Ted Benfey, 925 New Garden Road, Apt 521, Greensboro, NC 27410 or Instead of flowers, donations would be appreciated for the Rachel Thomas Benfey Fund at New Garden Friends School with its pre-school, A Child’s Garden, and its programs in the arts (1128 New Garden Road, Greensboro, NC 27410).

Carson—Albert Harold Carson, 99, on August 19, 2013, in Lacey, Wash. Harold was born on November 25, 1913, on a farm in Westfield, Ind., where his family had homesteaded in 1840. Westfield had been an important link on the Underground Railroad, and at two weeks old, he received a blessing from an ex-slave. He came from line of Quakers going back 300 years, with names such as Gause, Owens, and Walton. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse, and in 1932, he graduated from Westfield High School, an avid athlete, especially in football and track. He worked his way through Butler University, majoring in math and science, and graduated in 1936. After teaching for four years at Fortville High School near Indianapolis, Harold, a conscientious objector, was drafted in 1940 to work at Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps in Coshocton, Ohio, and Elkton, Ore. In Elkton, he met his future wife, Faith Nelson, who was accompanying her sister to visit her fiancé, another CO. After his first letter to Faith was lost in the post office for six months, they corresponded throughout the war and married in Indiana in 1946. After the war, he worked for American Friends Service Committee, managing a food and clothing collection center in Philadelphia and touring relief distribution centers in Europe. In one Hungarian village, where the Romani people (Gypsies) were not being allowed in line to receive clothing, he prevailed on the others to allow them in. He and Faith moved to Kirkland, Wash., in 1949 for his work as executive secretary of AFSC in Seattle, and they transferred their memberships to University Meeting in Seattle. One of his efforts was to organize an inter-racial children’s camp on Orcas Island. In 1954, he returned to teaching science at Casper W. Sharples Junior High School in Seattle (now Aki Kurose Middle School Academy). Harold clerked Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1960 and 1961 and attended its annual sessions for over 20 years. In the early ’60s, the Carsons and seven other families established Eastside Meeting in Bellevue, Wash. In 1968, he left Sharples to lead the science program at Rose Hill Middle School in Redmond, Wash. Harold reached out and listened to all students and counseled those with problems. He often said, “A teacher is one who is invited to be a helper; if you aren’t invited, you might as well go home.” When a committee formed to explore the formation of North Pacific Yearly Meeting, he clerked the committee, as well as its 1974 annual session, and he attended NPYM’s annual sessions for more than 30 years. After he retired in 1976, he and Faith gardened and traveled around the West. In 1983, a visit to China led to his volunteering at Pacific Science Center’s China exhibit. He and Faith moved in 1988 to Panorama, a retirement community in Lacey, where he gardened, managed the RV park, served on committees, and pursued woodworking. When Faith developed Alzheimer’s disease, he provided devoted care to her. In 1993, he founded an Alzheimer’s support group in Lacey, and in 1995, he started a group for male caregivers, facilitating both of these until 2006. In 2008, the Western and Central Washington State Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association gave him the Excellence in Support Group Facilitation Award. Harold wrote four books of poetry chronicling his life and spiritual journey, in one poem expressing his belief that “our center of understanding / is near the Source.” Harold could not be silent or stand aside in the face of need or injustice, and his life was a testament of kindness and service. Harold’s son, Edward Carson, died in 2007, and his wife, Faith Nelson Carson, died in 2008. He is survived by two children, John Carson (Margaret) and Robert Carson (Kate); two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Frye—Willie Richard Frye, 81, on September 9, 2013, at the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home in Winston-Salem, N.C. Willie was born on September 26, 1931, in Henry County, Va., to Hester Draper and Willie Richard Frye Sr. He graduated from John Wesley College (now Laurel University) and from Guilford College, and in 1951, he married Agnes Jones. He was a Quaker pastor who served meetings throughout North Carolina Yearly Meeting for 39 years. After he retired from the ministry, he worked at Forsyth Technical Community College until he was 80. Taking seriously the scriptural commandment to love his God with all his heart and to love his neighbors as he loved himself, even when it was unpopular and met with resistance, he was an activist for social justice, civil rights, pacifism, and gay rights. During the Vietnam War, he traveled to Paris to promote a peaceful resolution, and he and Agnes helped to organize support groups for LGBT individuals and their families. Willie savored life and cherished time with his wife and family and their friends. He enjoyed his hobbies of woodworking, writing, building furniture, and traveling. His family expresses gratitude to the hospice doctors and staff for their tender care over the last 15 months of Willie’s life. His home nurse, Jenn Haag, has been like a member of the family. A memorial service was held on September 14, 2013, at Winston-Salem Meeting, with Philip Raines, pastor, and the Reverend Bill McElveen officiating. Willie is survived by his wife, Agnes Jones Frye; three children, Kathy Adams (Bill), Rick Frye (Scottie Carratello), and Bob Frye (Nancy); four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother, Buford Frye (Wanda); and five sisters, Mollie Arrington, Doris Ferguson, Loretta Saben (David), Mary Ziglar (Fred), and Ruth McColley (Dean). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home in Winston-Salem or to Winston-Salem Friends Meeting.

Nygren—William Marion Nygren, 68, in July 2013, at home in Salem, Ore. Bill was born on January 4, 1946, in Corvallis, Oreg. His father was a construction worker, and his mother was a teacher, whose first job had entailed riding to school in the Colorado mountains on a mule. Bill attended Portland State University (PSU) and was editor of the school’s newspaper, the Vanguard, in 1963–66, making innovations at the paper and occasionally placing key editorials about state education funding issues and the Vietnam War on the front page. While he was editor, the Vanguard received the National Scholastic Press Association’s All-American Award. In the mid-’60s, he was the youngest professional sports writer and broadcaster at KUGN radio in Portland. When he joined Newspaper Guild strikers from The Oregonian who started an alternative newspaper called the Portland Reporter, the management at The Oregonian told him he would never work in mainstream media again. He never did. The first draft resister in Oregon, he was the youngest organizer in the War Resisters League, working with Dwight McDonald and A. J. Muste in the 1960s. He was one of a dozen Portland political activists investigated by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in 1964–65. He helped articulate what became the true north of the national anti-war movement’s moral compass when he joined The Resistance, an organization founded by David Harris which encouraged resisters to remain in the United States rather than go to Canada or Sweden. In 1966, Bill accepted the legal consequences of resisting the draft. He had not been raised in a peace church, and seeing himself as someone who might willingly have been a medic in World War II, he felt he was not a qualified conscientious objector. He and his parents were harassed and received death threats, but he received moral support from William Sloan Coffin; Oregon Senator Wayne Morse; and the historic peace churches like the Mennonites and the Quakers, whom he cherished, especially Multnomah Meeting in Portland. After serving two and a half years of a three-year sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison in 1966–68, he found that the world did not readily hire ex-felons, peacemakers or not. Today, most people accept that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake, but in 1966, he was considered a traitor by many, even his own father. He became an independent scholar, writer, and political organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, eventually receiving a presidential pardon from President Gerald Ford. Bill’s spiritual practice was personal and physical; he ran for ten miles almost every day as meditation. He was active with the Catholic Worker Movement and volunteered at the Dorothy Day House, the Joe Hill House, and the St. Joseph the Worker Church. After he was fired from Troubador Press for helping to organize a union, his wrongful firing appeal was upheld by the National Labor Relations Board, but he was blacklisted by the West Coast publishing industry. He worked as a longshore and construction worker and continued to write and organize during the ’70s and ’80s, working with the Spartacus League and the Pledge of Resistance, organizing a Teach-In in Portland about a two-state solution for Palestine, and helping to organize the People’s Army Jamboree and the Oakland Deadly Connections Conference. He took part in the San Francisco Bay Area Middle East Policy Study Group in the ’80s and ’90s. Beginning in 1999, he wrote several articles for West By Northwest, an online journal ( He took part in Israel support groups in the 2000s and wrote for the Left Libertarians newsletter. When he died, he was working on a history of the twentieth century’s Pacific Northwest political left with Matt Nelson. Friends probably can’t match his generous and helpful kindness, wry and wicked sense of humor, and ongoing political commitment at an age when most people are planning retirement jaunts, but we can try. Bill leaves behind a wide circle of friends who were his extended family, including Maureen Gray Hudson and Patrick Gray Hudson, his godson.

Yarrow—Margaret Allida Norton Yarrow, 100, peacefully, with her family close by, on October 9, 2012, at Horizon House in Seattle, Wash. Margaret was born on July 15, 1912, in Aurora, Ill., to Edith Case and Charles Norton. She spent most of her childhood in Ann Arbor, Mich., graduating from Ann Arbor High School and the University of Michigan, where she studied education and American history. As a sophomore, she met her future husband, Clarence “Mike” Yarrow, during a Quaker service project in New York City. When Mike called her to say that he had a fellowship to research fascism in Italy and asked if she would marry him and come along, she told him she was studying for an exam and had no time for jokes, but he replied that he was serious and suggested that they ask for coins instead of wedding presents. They married that summer and biked through Europe, trying to avoid “Heil Hitler” sessions at German youth hostels. When they moved to Oxford, Miss., in 1938 for Mike’s job at University of Mississippi, she was asked to teach American history to the northern football players because they didn’t understand “southern.” She and Mike had become Quakers, and during World War II, she and their two young sons lived in a barracks in the mountains while Mike worked at a Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp. After the war, she taught English and history at Pacific Ackworth Friends School in Temple City, Calif., and she and Mike helped found Pacific Oaks Children’s School in Pasadena. When Mike began work as associate secretary of the American Section of American Friends Service Committee in 1952, they moved to Swarthmore, Pa. She took a racially mixed Girl Scout troop to Mexico, integrating a Girl Scout camp in Texas along the way. When Mike was transferred to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1958, they tried to sell their house to an African American family, confronting overt hostility from many Swarthmore residents, including members of Swarthmore Meeting. The Friends Journal article “Housing Desegregation in a Small Town” (Feb. 2012) gives an account of this experience. Returning to Swarthmore in 1963, Margaret directed Media Fellowship House in Media, Pa., leading people to work together at a time of racial tension between white liberals and black power advocates. When Mike and Margaret retired, they spent a year at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in England and then served as Quakers-in-Residence at a meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland, experiencing firsthand the sectarian violence. The meetinghouse windows were broken out by bombs exploding just down the street, and when they brought Catholic and Protestant leaders together for dialogue, the two groups entered the building through different doors. Later, they served as hosts at Honolulu (Hawaii) Meeting and settled in Denver, Colo., becoming stalwarts of Mountain View Meeting. Mike died in 1985, and Margaret kept up her little house, living simply but entertaining often and tutoring many immigrants who became good friends. During a visit from her grandson in the ’80s, she climbed on the back of his motorcycle for a ride. For a time, she served as the Howard and Anna Brinton Memorial Visitor to a circuit of Western meetings. In 2005, she moved to Washington State to be near her family, and when she moved to Horizon House after a serious fall that caused some memory loss, she impressed everyone with her calm, kind demeanor and abundant good humor. Bringing a calm and loving spirit to every situation, Margaret was a powerful listener who made others feel understood and appreciated. Her friend Alice Carroll Swift commented on her good listening and how her interest in others gave them confidence. Margaret’s husband, Mike Yarrow, died in 1985, and her youngest son, Edward Burr Yarrow, died in 1987. She is survived by two children, Douglas Yarrow and Michael Yarrow; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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