Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm so glad you didn't knock! Part III

The early 1970s were not done with this family yet.  Elizabeth's husband, the childrens' dad Ray, whom I think I never met, died from ill health. I don't know how old she was, but beloved Grandma Paisano also passed away during this time, leaving a hole in everyone's heart.
In spite of these terrible soul-smashing blows Elizabeth really came into her own in both family leadership and community service following these years, when, without any particular background or training, she was appointed director of the Laguna Library. By the later 1970's she became increasingly renowned in the world of indigenous librarians; she visited us when business brought her to Chicago in 1979 for a meeting at the Newberry Library. Through recent Google searches, I have come to learn that she also attended conferences in such places as Auckland New Zealand, and Regina Saskatchewan, and testified before the Gates Foundation and Congress. I stood in front of the library with her in 1977 when was still in a little adobe "box" (above) but before she was done, she had shepherded the library into a beautiful new structure to house its books, digital resources, and archives, and from which to offer services to the 7,000-some enrolled members of the tribe.
Elizabeth at my home in Chicago, 1977

Liz's spirit lives on at the Library, for which she worked tirelessly until just a few months before her death in 2007, at the age of 82.
Elizabeth in front of the new library sign, photographer and date unknown.


  1. A chance meeting that sparked a lifelong friendship. Thank you for sharing the story with us. And I am pleased that Elizabeth came to New Zealand!

  2. Elizabeth was quite a woman. What an accomplishment! Sorry to hear about Grandma Paisano - she seemed like a very special person. Thanks for sharing this family with us.