Milestones December 2015

Deaths

AutenriethHorace Henry Autenrieth, 92, on January 24, 2015, in Salem, Ore. Horace was born on January 21, 1923, near Paullina, Iowa, to Gertrude Mary Tow and Elden Henry Autenrieth. He attended Gaza Public School for 11 years and graduated from Olney Friends School, where he met Mary Hall, who became his closest friend and lifelong partner and companion. After attending William Penn College for two years, beginning in 1943 he served in Civilian Public Service as a heavy machine operator leveling land for irrigation with the Bureau of Reclamation near Trenton/Williston, N.D., and as an attendant for the mentally ill at Philadelphia State Hospital.

Horace and Mary married in 1945 in Damascus, Ohio, under the care of Upper Springfield (Ohio) Meeting. After he volunteered under the United Nations Relief and Reconstruction Act to transport horses to Poland and Greece, he and Mary moved to Iowa, where he earned a degree in agriculture from Iowa State University. In 1949, they began a life of grain and livestock farming in the Paullina, Iowa, community. He and Mary hosted visitors in exchange programs and traveled to Europe to study food and peace issues. He took an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Middle East study tour of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1979, and they accompanied a dozen college students studying the human and animal population impact on the Kenyan environment in 1983. Their farm became a Century Farm in 1984, having been continually owned by one family for 100 years or more. He helped reorganize the Northwest Iowa Farm Business Association and served on the O’Brien County Soil Conservation Commission, the Paullina Farmers Elevator board, and the Northwest Iowa Experimental Farm board. A local 4-H Club leader, Paullina Lions Club member, and organizer of the local American Field Service chapter, he loved to fly and joined the local Flying Club.

For many years he attended AFSC meetings and Scattergood Friends School Committee meetings, and he was elder, treasurer, and Sunday school teacher in Paullina Meeting. After retiring from 35 years of farming, in 1985–88 he and Mary served as AFSC Quaker Middle East Affairs Representatives; as Friends in Residence at Pendle Hill Quaker study center near Philadelphia, Pa.; and as Resident Couple for Honolulu Friends Center. When in 1995 they moved to Capital Manor in Salem, Ore., he joined Salem Meeting, took part in Capital Manor activities, and was a peer counselor for Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services.

Horace was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Mary Autenrieth, in 2005; a sister, Emily Lewis (Paul); and three nieces. He is survived by his children, Aline Autenrieth and Greg Autenrieth; two sisters, Barbara Thygesen (Bent) and Norma Autenrieth (John Little); and many nieces and nephews. He participated in Oregon’s Compassion and Choices program, and he willed his body to the Oregon Health Sciences School of Medicine, requesting that his children deposit his ashes near the Horace Autenrieth/Mary Autenrieth headstone in the Friends Cemetery near Paullina. A meeting of remembrance was held for him at Salem Meeting and one at Paullina Meeting.

FloerkeMary Louise Drum Floerke, known as Jill, 90, on May 26, 2015, at home with her daughters in Managua, Nicaragua. Jill was born on February 21, 1925, in Decatur, Ill., the elder of two daughters of Margaret and Rex Drum. She earned a degree in journalism from University of Illinois and became the first woman sports editor on a daily newspaper in the country. In 1947, she moved to Chicago, where she lived for nearly 40 years. She worked for newspapers, wire services, textbook publishers, and eventually the Christian Century magazine, a post she kept till retirement.

In the 1960s and 1970s, she worked for the Civil Rights Movement. Discerning the leading of the Spirit and following God were underlying principles of her long life, and in 1972 she found her spiritual home among Friends, joining Fifty-seventh Street Meeting in Chicago; later Northside Meeting in Evanston, Ill.; and in her final years Tampa (Fla.) Meeting. She participated in the worship life and committee work of all these meetings. In addition to her pioneering feminism and decades of support for the organized labor movement, she joined other Friends in seeking nonviolent alternatives in situations of conflict or oppression, supported the gay rights movement, and involved herself in local issues.

Jill knew how to enjoy life, usually in simple ways. She retired early so that she could travel in her little camping van all over the United States, staying mostly in state parks, spending her days hiking or just sitting outside reading and enjoying nature. She also visited Mexico, Canada, and Nicaragua. And she never lost her love of sports. She rooted for the underdog (e.g., a lifetime faithful fan of the Chicago Cubs!), and especially followed baseball, golf, and college basketball. And she could often be found with a book. Years after she’d stopped driving, she still dreamed of taking off in a camper and revisiting favorite places. Jill valued her intelligence and independence highly and lived in her own apartment until she broke her hip at age 90. No longer able to care for herself safely living alone, she made the difficult decision to move to Nicaragua to live with her two daughters, Kathy and Pat Floerke. She planned to participate in the Managua Worship Group and was looking forward to being an active part of Pat and Kathy’s intentional Jubilee House Community and volunteering as she was able with their sustainable community development project, the Center for Development in Central America. In less than two weeks, however, she developed additional complications to her existing health problems and died peacefully in her sleep. She is survived by her children, Kathy Floerke and Pat Floerke; her sister, June Swartwout; and three nephews and their families.

HickmanThomas W. Hickman, 92, of Berlin, Md., on September 22, 2014. Tom was born on January 14, 1922, in Springfield, Pa. He was deeply affected by his World War II experience, serving as a forward scout in the 109th Infantry Regiment of the First Army 28th Division and one of the first Americans to cross the Siegfried Line into Germany. He saw extensive combat through five military campaigns across Europe, earning a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the French Croix de Guerre. Days after returning from the war, he married Margery DeChant and resumed his studies at West Chester State University, where he was All-American in both track and field and soccer. In 1947 he and Marge moved to Millville, Del., and he taught and coached at Lord Baltimore School. They bought an abandoned farm and built a house and barns with their own hands and raised ponies and sheep. A teacher and coach for more than 40 years, Tom was known in the 1970s at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Del., as the “dean of downstate track,” coaching track teams to state championships in 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1975. Believing that athletics should be a route to helping kids, he was prouder of the men and women his students became than he was of the championships they won. He was the first person to receive the Delaware Sports Club Coach of the Year Award and was inducted into the Delaware Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Tom ultimately became a Quaker and a member of Wicomico River Meeting in Salisbury, Md. He spoke of the war experiences that had shaped his commitment to tolerance and a gentler way, often saying that if enough frontline combatants survived (most do not) and brought themselves to tell the truth of their war experiences (most cannot), we could end war. A friend helped him publish his notes from his combat service, an unvarnished and often harrowing look at war, and he made it available to family and friends. In 1990, Tom, his son, and two old friends traveled to Europe to retrace his route through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. He met a German who had fought on the German side in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Over a beer in the man’s backyard, they agreed that the battle, which killed 24,000 U.S. soldiers and an equal number of Germans, was the worst of their bad war experiences.

Tom is survived by his wife of 69 years, Margery DeChant Hickman; their three children, Bruce Hickman, Katharine Hickman (known as Taf), and Nancy Hickman; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

 

WeeksDorothy Skiles Weeks, 91, on March 11, 2014, in her sleep in La Crosse, Wis. Dodie was born on July 10, 1922, in Grayville, Ill., and moved to Urbana, Ill., in 1940 to study accounting at University of Illinois. A sorority sister who attended Urbana-Champaign Meeting suggested that she visit the meeting to meet a very nice man who usually worshipped there. Dodie did go, and although an elder approached her and said she must not be a Quaker because of her bright red nail polish, she found a spiritual home that was in keeping with her feelings about God, having never been able to accept the fire-and-brimstone sermons of her childhood. That day she also met the man her friend had spoken of: Francis Weeks, who was one of a group who had helped to establish the meeting. On their first date, he asked her to marry him, and they married the next year. She was welcomed as a member of the meeting in 1943. Dodie was meeting treasurer from 1953 until 1999. She helped with the meeting’s annual peace bazaar, and though she herself was not a peace and justice activist, she would go to the arraignments of Friends who had been arrested for demonstrating. Dodie and Fran taught Quaker values to their children by the way they lived, and their seven daughters were all entered as birthright Friends. One daughter suggested in an Illinois Yearly Meeting youth session in the mid-1960s that teenagers discuss their frustrations about Vietnam, race relations, and burgeoning drug use with their parents, and another young Friend protested: “Not everyone’s parents are like yours!”

All admired Dodie’s sunny disposition and sense of humor. Serving as the landlady for the meeting’s adjacent rental property, she enjoyed the interactions with the university students—many of them from other countries. She was particularly fond of a young man from India who asked her to change a ceiling light bulb for him. When she delicately suggested that he could change the bulb himself, he answered that it could be dangerous and that he was his mother’s only son. Although she replied, “And I am my seven daughters’ only mother,” she cheerfully changed the bulb.

Fran died in 1993, having celebrated 51 years of marriage with Dodie and gotten many years of loving care from her as he had grown older. Dodie is survived by seven children, Hilda Kuter, Anne Weeks, Ginny Weeks, Sally Weeks, Muffie Bilyeu, Cyndi Muiznieks, and Janet Chaney; fourteen grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. When Dodie died, all seven of her daughters were in Israel to attend the wedding of a granddaughter. Thus she had three memorial meetings for worship: one in Tel Aviv with the family; one at Urbana-Champaign Meeting; and one at the time of her burial, beside her husband, in a small rural cemetery in South Sodus, N.Y.

 

WilletShelagh Marjorie Willet, 83, on June 8, 2015, in Ramotswa, South East District, Botswana. Shelagh was born on December 1, 1931, in Transvaal, South Africa, and grew up on a farm near Pietersburg, South Africa, where she felt close to nature and formed the love of all life that gave her the great strength she had in her work. She taught in Lesotho for a few years and became the librarian at University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, a predecessor to today’s universities of the three countries. She first met Quakers, including Philadelphian David Richie, at a workcamp at Wilgespruit in Gauteng (one of a very few places where multiracial groups met during apartheid). Joining Botswana Meeting, she traveled in Africa, and to England and the United States for international meetings of Quakers.

When she moved to Botswana to develop the library at the Gaborone campus, she took her mother with her. They soon began assisting refugees and started the first refugee center in Gaborone. Eventually she ended her University of Botswana librarian job, giving up a comfortable lifestyle to care for others. With the assistance of British Quakers and many others, she helped to establish Kagisong Centre for refugees in Mogoditshane, where she had a small rondavel among the other shelters. In her long retirement she lived in a house in Gabane, with her garden, her cats and dogs, sometimes chickens, and those who accepted her loving care.

Shelagh carried out the peace and simplicity testimonies and was always even in her relationships and living a message of nonviolence as she counseled the refugees at the Kagisong Centre. Writing the history of the Kagisong Centre was her last activity in a long fruitful life. Voices of Kagisong: History of the Refugee Programme in Botswana caps a number of resource books she wrote, often with colleagues, on Lesotho (1980) and Botswana (1992), including: The Khoe and San: An Annotated Bibliography, Volume 1 (2002) with Janet Hermans, Stella Monageng, and Sidsel Saugestad; and The Khoe and San: An Annotated Bibliography (2004), Volume 2. She also wrote for Southern Africa Quaker News (SAQN). Shelagh assisted local scholars with great humility by reading and editing drafts of their work, with no expectation of remuneration or recognition. For many years she collected materials for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She gave the Richard Gush Memorial Lecture at the 2013 Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meetings on a personal concern of hers: a reverence for all life. In a life lived in the spirit of love and kindness with a belief in the Inner Light of each person, Shelagh would help others before herself, often giving away resources when little was left to meet her own needs. Her beliefs and humanity made her trust people, sometimes with unexpected consequences, but these never caused her to waiver in her convictions. In recent years, when faced with declining health, a loss in hearing, and other problems, she was steadfast. Among her final words to those helping her were “I am such a trouble to everyone.” Shelagh left us as she lived—thinking of others. She had no survivors.

 

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