William Maxfield Alexander

Alexander—William Maxfield Alexander, 94, on June 27, 2020, peacefully at the home of his daughter, Loree Monroe, in Chico, Calif. Will was born in Hood River, Ore., on November 26, 1925. He grew up on the family fruit and dairy farm in Parkdale, Ore. His lifelong love of learning began while attending Oregon State University, where he met Anna MacGillivray. After their marriage in 1950, they moved to State College, Pa., then to Washington, D.C. Will and Anna became members of Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.) in 1953. Will sponsored weekend workcamps with American Friends Service Committee to improve the housing of low-income people in the D.C. area. In 1955, they returned to Oregon for Will to work on his doctorate (political science). Will and Anna were now the parents of three children, Bill, Johnny, and Loree.

In 1958, Will accepted a position at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, Calif. In 1964, on a Fulbright grant teaching at Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, India, Will developed a desire to study and serve in other countries. In 1978, he and Anna visited 16 projects of Right Sharing of World Resources in Africa and Asia. Will and Anna became Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya in 1979. Building on these experiences, Will advanced Cal Poly’s curriculum by establishing a new course on world food politics. Will and Anna were mainstays of the San Luis Obispo Worship Group, for which they opened their home to sojourning Friends for 40 years.

After retirement, Will’s posed this query: How will our grandchildren survive through the twenty-first century? This led to studies on population growth, human consumption, and climate change. He was pleased to find that Kerala, the southwestern state of India, offered a model for low-consumption with high quality of life indicators (high literacy, low infant mortality, and low birth rate). He conducted Earthwatch Institute projects there and concluded that the matriarchal society of Kerala contributed to their success. His article “Simplicity, Poverty, and Gender in the Indian State of Kerala” (FJ May 2005) summarizes his findings.

Will and Anna served as wardens of Wellington Meeting in New Zealand in 1994–95. When Anna experienced a change in health status, they moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1997. First, as resident Friends of Redwood Forest Meeting and then at Friends House, a retirement community in Santa Rosa. Anna died of Parkinson’s disease in July 2003. Will served on the board of Friends Association of Services for the Elderly at Friends House.

In 2005, at the invitation of longtime friends Lew and Mary Celia Tuttle, Will moved to Lansing, Mich., where Lew was living with Parkinson’s disease. Will became a member and respected elder of Red Cedar Meeting in Lansing. He was an able helper to Mary Celia through Lew’s decline and passing. Will and Mary Celia married in the manner of Friends under the care of Red Cedar Meeting in 2012. Will and Mary Celia’s friendship and caring of over 70 years is witness to the power of love that moves in different shapes over a lifespan. On Mary Celia’s passing in 2017, Will moved first to live near his older sister, Mary Helen Filz, in Lake Oswego, Ore., and then to Chico, Calif., near his daughter, Loree Monroe.

Will is survived by three children, Bill Alexander (Lisa Verbalovich), John Alexander (Jane Divinski), and Loree Monroe (Bill); six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a sister, Mary Helen Filz.

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