Obituary: Liz Allen

Community leader, champion of sustainability

Liz Allen, a longtime resident actively engaged with the Claremont community, died peacefully on April 29, 2016 at Pilgrim Place Health Services Center following a stroke in February. She was 88.

She was born Elizabeth Farol in Chicago in 1928 while her father was attending the university. Six days later her future husband, Freeman Allen, was born in Berkeley. After her father completed degree work at the university, the Farol family moved to the Philippines where he taught English at Far Eastern University and Liz completed high school. After the war she returned to the United States to attend the University of California at Berkeley and majored in biochemistry. 

Mr. Allen was also in the chemistry department and they married in 1950 before Liz graduated and Freeman began graduate study at the University of Wisconsin. After completing studies at Wisconsin, the couple returned to Berkeley. Mrs. Allen completed her degree in biochemistry, took up ceramics as a hobby and, for a time, worked in the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. In 1954 Freeman accepted a position on the Pomona College chemistry faculty. The Allens moved to Claremont, and Mrs. Allen followed through with her ceramics interests at Scripps and became active in the community.

As a member of the Claremont Civic Association, she helped establish Village Venture as a street fair where local artisans and enterprises could showcase their endeavors. In 1955 the Allens welcomed their first child, a daughter named Debra. Their son John was born in 1957, followed by the birth of their daughter Mary in 1959. In 1961, with their young family, the Allens spent a sabbatical year in Cologne, Germany.

Mrs. Allen was always friendly and outgoing. As the children grew up she helped organize after-school foreign language classes. Liz joined the League of Women Voters and in 1984 chaired the Regional Task Force of Southern California (ENACT) charged with implementing League action programs. For the League in the Claremont Area, she edited their newsletter and was co-chair in 2001. She was a member of the Water Task Force that published the report “Water Issues in Claremont 2005,” and had a lead role in working toward sensible hazardous waste management with Sierra Club California.

Mrs. Allen’s impact with regards to community issues was considerable, fellow LWV members noted. For instance, she used her computer skills to create a flowchart demonstrating where Claremont’s water hails from before being piped to the city by Golden State Water, which was used as a frontispiece for the water task force’s report. She wasn’t much for boasting about her contributions, however.

“She was very concerned about issues but she worked a lot in the background—she worked a lot to support other people. Her cheerful attitude and sense of humor were very important in helping us to keep going,” fellow League member Katie Gerecke said.

Alice Oglesby, another LWV stalwart, always enjoyed seeing Mrs. Allen at League gatherings. She remembers her most fondly for some of the less political interests they shared. Both women had husbands who worked at Pomona College and both were part of the campus women organization. Mrs. Oglesby and Mrs. Allen were stay-at-home moms when they became acquainted and took a couple of extension courses in their spare time. One was an entomology course at UC Riverside and the women enjoyed carpooling to the class. Another was a class at Cal Poly Pomona on native shrubs of California, which offered a memorable two-day field trip.

“We started in Anza-Borrego State Park in August. When we arrived there was a temperature of 109,” Ms. Oglesby recalled. “We started in the early morning and then traversed across that whole part of the state park into Torrey Pines. We had such a jolly time.”

Marilee Scaff is another Claremonter who worked with Mrs. Allen on League projects and local sustainability issues, particularly the ongoing effort to help Claremont acquire its water system. Ms. Scaff, along with her husband, was a missionary in the Philippines from 1941 to 1945, stationed in a remote mountain village, before being interned by the Japanese for a time as World War II escalated. As such, she enjoyed some of the personal characteristics displayed by Mrs. Allen.

“I took special delight in the fact that Liz had a mixed American and Filipino background. She had that lovely spirit that came with her father being a Filipino professor who was studying at the university,” Ms. Scaff said. “When he went back to his job in the Philippines, she absorbed much of that culture—the courtesy and good friendliness.”

Ms. Scaff said she admired the attitude Mrs. Allen brought to her undertakings in Claremont. “I loved working with Liz,” she said. “She was quiet and not noisy, but she was very clear about what she thought was important. She was accomplished and clever and an absolutely delightful human being.”

Ms. Scaff also enjoyed some exotic downtime when she and fellow LWV member Sally Seven joined Liz and Freeman on a month-long trip to Botswana at the invitation of the Allens’ daughter Debra, who was working there training horses for horse safaris, managing a lodge on the Okavango River and collecting native art for sale in her shop and online.

“We had a lovely time in the back country, not the city. We went to Namibia and South Africa and stayed out in what the Africans would call the bush. Liz was wonderful to travel with.”

For recreation Liz enjoyed quilting, folk dancing, singing in the choir, listening to music, reading and following Spanish-language programs.

All of her family, including her three children and three grandchildren, were able to be with Mrs. Allen in her final days. Her grandson Arin was with her when she drew her last breath.


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