Obituary: Elizabeth (Sullivan) Walkenbach

Mother, educator, theater lover, athlete

“After a life devoted to connecting people, helping others, and simply brightening her corner of the world, Elizabeth (Sullivan) Walkenbach passed away unexpectedly on March 11th, 2024,” her family shared.

Elizabeth, fondly known as Beth, was born in Providence, Rhode Island. She was the eldest daughter of James and Judith Sullivan, who raised her in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

From a young age, she exhibited a drive for excellence. She was an accomplished student and a talented athlete as well as a leader among her peers. She was also a member of her high school chorus and acted in community theater. “Regardless of whether she was walking the hallways at school, playing on the field, or performing on stage, Beth was known for her rare kindness and generous spirit,” her family expressed.

Her drive for excellence led her to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York after graduating from Cumberland High School. At Cornell she majored in English and aspired to a career in education. She immersed herself in the campus community as a member of Cornell’s Division I field hockey team, Pi Beta Phi sorority, and the a cappella group Touchtones.

She moved to Boston after graduating from Cornell, where she met Bill Walkenbach, a fellow Cornell graduate and her future husband. They built a life together, eventually returning to Ithaca to work for their alma mater and to grow their family. After several years in Ithaca, their careers led them and their two daughters, Julia and Charlotte, to Claremont.

“As was her way, Beth built a caring community for herself and her family in Claremont,” according to her family. She continued her work in education at Claremont McKenna College and with Keck Graduate Institute.

In addition to her professional endeavors, she devoted herself to supporting her daughters in their interests and activities. She enjoyed working with the Girl Scouts and watching her daughters’ love for theater grow to match her own. An active member of her church, she led children’s liturgy for several years. She took great comfort in her yoga community and had recently begun to sing again with Claremont Chorale.

“Beth will be remembered for her ability to make others feel seen, heard, and deeply loved,” her family added. “You did not need to know her for long to experience Beth’s infectious enthusiasm and unwavering support. Beth was an incredibly bright light.”

She is survived by her daughters, Julia and Charlotte; husband William; parents Judith and James Sullivan; sisters Pam (Nicholas) Schieffelin and Julia (Michael) Ludwig; brothers Jamie (Kate) Sullivan and Dan (Jessica) Sullivan; niece, Poppy; nephews Cooper and Jack; mother-in-law Cindy Walkenbach; brother-in-law Chris Walkenbach; Aunt Valerie Eberle; and Uncle Scott Walkenbach. She also leaves many beloved East Coast aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A Catholic funeral Mass will be held at noon Saturday, April 20 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 N. Berkeley Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, followed by a reception at Walter’s Restaurant, 310 Yale Ave., Claremont.

The family welcomes all who join the service and reception to dress in colorful attire, “reflective of Beth’s vibrant life and spirit.”


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