In Memoriam: Carol Elevitch, 1928 - 2018

Carol Lee Kageff grew up in Detroit, Michigan with her parents Bertram and Charlotte and younger brother Burt. She graduated high school Valedictorian in 1946 and went on to earn her B.A. at Wayne State University and M.F.A. in creative writing at the University of Michigan, winning a Hopwood Graduate Short Fiction Award for her novelette The Hovering Gulls. In early 1956 she met Morton Elevitch, also a University of Michigan English grad student/writer. By August they were married.

Both were unconventional for their time and creatively and intellectually driven. They traveled and lived in various countries in Europe from 1957 to 1958, renting homes in Rome and Ibiza. In 1959 they settled in Rockport, Maine on Bearskin Neck, a small artists’ community of writers and painters, where they established and ran a paperback bookstore “The Tides" and published a literary magazine First Person. In 1960 they moved to Manhattan, and in the dog days of summer 1961 they were ready to move again. Carol had recalled from her college days a dreamy Mabel Mercer song about Snedens Landing and the “white houses [that] cling to the hill," so off they went and found the white house on Washington Spring Road where they lived for the next half century.

Carol was happy to put down roots and eager to get involved in her new community. Nik was born in 1969 and Ilena in 1970. In 1971 Carol joined the Board of Trustees of the Palisades Library and had a pivotal role in helping defeat a measure that would have caused hamlet libraries to be absorbed into a larger library system. In 1972 she gave birth to Katie at the age of 44. She joined a women’s writing group. In 1977 she helped with the founding of 10964, and became editor in chief from 1980 to 82 and coeditor from 1985 to 86. She remained a staff writer and editor until her retirement in 2013. From 1981 to 1993 she was an administrative assistant to Dennis Hayes in the Marine Geophysics department at Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory. All during this time, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes in local political and school board elections, and community mobilization to “get out the vote.”

The kitchen table in Carol's home was an informal meeting place for friends, neighbors and colleagues to stop by for a cup of coffee and some advice, to chat, to vent and organize. Carol was known as calm, measured, intelligent and a deep listener. She did not rush to conclusions; she reasoned, hinted, recommended. Throughout her life, Carol enjoyed talking about the latest political news, films and authors, and always maintained a stack of library books and a subscription to The New Yorker.

As kids and adults we were nurtured by her passion and commitment to the arts, education and play. Being raised in this community - a kind of sanctuary - in the 1970s, we, and our friends, had so much freedom to dream and play. We remember fondly building play towns with blocks that took up the entire living room floor. We were allowed to keep these towns and their toy inhabitants set up for weeks undisturbed while we developed them, with mom and dad slowly and carefully stepping through.

When Katie was pregnant with Ruby in 2013, Mom experienced a large enough health setback that she had to leave her house in Snedens. Katie and her partner Ira welcomed Mom into their home in Valley Cottage. Katie spent her pregnancy readying two rooms in the house - one for her soon-to-be daughter Ruby, and one for Mom. Mom’s gentle energy and compassion played a critical role in helping Katie avoid the postpartum depression, isolation and anxiety that so many first-time mothers experience. It was wonderful to see the enjoyment that Mom experienced playing with and bearing witness to the development of her grandchild. She was endlessly amused by Ruby - Mom’s laughter echoed throughout the house. She adored Ruby, who often sat beside her, and occasionally on her lap, while Mom played piano and sang along in her characteristic singsong melodic vibrato.

Carol passed away peacefully at home on January 7 at age 89 surrounded by her family. Readers are invited to visit CarolElevitchInMemoriam where we have posted photos of Carol; videos from the January 28 Palisades Community Center Memorial Celebration; speeches by Alice Gerard, Gerry Miras, Ellen Galinsky and Heather Finck; singing by Ilena's husband Lee Farber and a reprint of Alice Gerard’s May 2014 article on Carol’s retirement from 10964.