In Memory

Liz Montgomery (Heinz)

Liz Montgomery (Heinz)

Liz died on April 27, 2017 in Berkley, CA as a result of ocular melanoma.  See more information in her obituary.

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11/29/17 11:29 AM #1    

Charles Matheson

Sorry to hear this news, I sat next to Liz (then Betty) in homeroom. I had a sophomore crush on her.

Chuck (then Charlie) Matheson


12/01/17 10:31 AM #2    

Kylie Dennis (-)

Chuck, you are brave to admit that. smiley

Betty (Liz) was a close friend of mine. I am sad to hear she has left us already and we won't be meeting at the reunion. After the last reunion, we had a wonderful correspondence. I will paste what she wrote as her "life story" below and her family photo. I don't think she would mind as she has told her story publicly already.

--Kylie Dennis

PS I love this look-alike photo of mother/son.

Post Yale, I lived in NYC, worked in market research after some time at literary agency and in landscape architecture. Worked 10 years for Louis Harris and Associates (Harris Survey).  Interesting job--in addition to commercial market research, lots of media polling, a women's rights study presentation at the White House and five minutes of fame on the Today Show with Jane Pauley interviewing me about a survey I conducted on women balancing family and work.

Met Kurt in NYC in 1976,  a couple of years after he had divorced, no kids--he's 10 years older than I am--and we married in 1980.  We relocated to San Francisco in 1984 so I could open a branch office for Lou Harris.

Kurt left a staff job with a NYC corporate design firm and started his own one-man design business in SF.  Most of his clients are architects who hire him to provide classy directories and signage for their building remodels.

 Alex was born when we still rented (a great flat) in San Francisco, but while I was pregnant, our building was sold and we were asked to leave so our flat could be remodelled and the rent doubled.  At that point, we bought a house in Berkeley within easy commuting distance of SF.  I had always wanted to live in a university town, and Berkeley, within the many micro climates of the Bay area, has perfect weather, great coffee (Kurt's requirement), and lots of culture. Although it is interesting, after growing up in New Canaan, to live in a town that was once run by closet communists.

(It's true. But twenty years before we moved in.)

Shortly after we moved and Alex was born, my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He died at 63 after the cancer metastasized to his brain; he did get to see infant Alex before he died.  My Mom had a lot of recovering to do from being his primary caregiver for his last couple of years, but she is now 78, in reasonably good health, taking luxury trips with her sister and bridge friends, living in the same house with a pool to which they retired in Sea Island, Georgia.  She treated me and my sister-in-law to a cruise on the Danube with her last fall. It was wonderful.

I went to work for Wells Fargo Bank when Lou Harris closed the SF office I had opened, about a year after we moved to SF.  Worked at WF for 15 years, various marketing jobs, eventually graduating to SVP and head of brand marketing.  What a great job.  Advertising photo shoot of stagecoaches in Wyoming was a high point--the entire town of Dubois, pop. 200 or so, turned out for a barbecue in our honor.  The first signature I laid down when I became brand manager was on a purchase order for an authentic stagecoach that had come onto the market.  (The CEO had a standing order and special budget for them.)

 I retired in 1999 when Wells Fargo was bought by Norwest Bank, and the management and corporate culture changed beyond my desire to change with it.

I had saved every bonus, mostly stock grants, and my financial planner said I could afford to leave.  The alternative would have been another 6 years of stress before qualifying for official retirement.

Another reason for early retirement was that I had been diagnosed with high risk breast cancer in 1994 and treated for a year, including high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, radiation, mastectomy. the works. A life changing event, and although I had no apparent lingering health issues, I wasn't willing to serve out time in a job I didn't enjoy any more.

My three retirement priorities have been:  my health, my family, and deepening and widening my circle of friends.  All three have been totally absorbing, in ways I could never have predicted... I was very empathetic with your sadness at your ex's suicide and with your support of your son.

Alex was diagnosed with clinical depression at 12 and we made the decision to send him to a therapeutic boarding school in Colorado.  He has been there two years and will probably remain another six months or so; he has made great progress but still suffers from anxiety, especially around school performance (super bright, no learning disabilities, but shaky self esteem and severe performance anxiety).  The very small school he attends has been a godsend, but it doesn't have a high school, and I'm not sure we could afford another 4 years if it did.  We're at the point of having to find an appropriate school for him when he leaves; we really, really want him home, he's a great kid, but both the public and private school situation here, as in so many places, is really disappointing.  Most of the private schools won't even consider him because he's coming from a therapeutic school.

Discrimination starts early.

 Kurt was diagnosed with depression soon after we moved to San Francisco; he had been suffering from anxiety for years, and there is a strong family history of depression on his side that helped us get on top of Alex's problems pretty quickly, but needless to say I've had a lot of coping to do.

Now I'm unlearning some of the coping to put more responsibility back on Alex and Kurt.

This year I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy--a severe weakening of the heart muscle, not a heart attack-- probably a residual from chemotherapy, possibly enhanced by family stress.  It's entirely a muscle thing, no arterial problems.  It is unlikely that the heart will recover (if it were caused by a virus, it would) so the goal is to keep it from getting any worse, and only meds can do that.  So far, so good.

The lemonade from the heart failure lemon has been a cardio rehab class at the Y.  Three early mornings a week with twenty or so 70 year olds, some of whom show up regularly even though they can barely make it around the gym.

Inspiring, great for my mood, and not bad for my dress size.

My long term psychotherapist has encouraged me to make women friends to help me deal with my stress, find other outlets for humor and fun, etc. It is helpful. Earlier this year, I lost two good friends to breast cancer, but I continue to walk and talk with other friends and to be open to new friendships in a way I couldn't when I was working.

I have published a short personal essay in the Yale alumni magazine, and another in a local women's writing group anthology, a self-published book benefit for breast cancer.  The book I wanted to write, a banking mystery/thriller, however, seems to have stalled after three chapters.  I meet once a month with an evening writing group.  That forces me to show up with some writing, but that writing is usually a self-contained essay.  I want to keep the writing pleasurable, so I'm a little short on the kind of working discipline I need to produce a book.

I garden, and I take photos of flowers. I took Italian for a couple of years at a language school in Berkeley.  I am in awe of your going back to school for graduate degrees.  I am still pretty good at languages--my French, without any practice at all since college, can be summoned up when needed, as I discovered when we did a house swap with a French family in 1997.

However, it was a real challenge to learn a new language, and I don't think I've retained much Italian since I quit going to class six months ago.  I suffer from guilt for quitting.  It was most excellent brain exercise.

You know, my Mom says the latest thing among her 70 something set is that they write their own obituaries.  I heartily approve--I would dread writing hers, I couldn't do justice to her life.  But I hope that's not what this sounds like.

It's more than enough for catching up, I think?  Let me know if I've left anything important out..



12/04/17 10:07 AM #3    

Tory Hicks

I always made a point of standing beside Betty  during spelling bees in Mrs. Newton's 4th grade class at Center School. That way, the stumpers were likely to be handled by her before they got to me. She was famously the smart girl. I am very sorry to hear of her passing.

12/05/17 10:48 AM #4    

Gigi Sweet (Harper)

I just read her life story.  Thank you for posting it! What an amazing woman, so intelligent, brave, honest and inspirational! So sorry to hear this sad news.

12/05/17 08:17 PM #5    

Ann Stillman (Wilson)

Kyle, thanks for posting the letter from Liz.  What an amazing, full life she led - far too short.  What year was that written?  Ann

09/02/18 10:40 PM #6    

Dawn Maurer (Ferguson)

Betty (later Liz) was a good friend of mine at school. We met first at SAXE in homeroom and then in French class.  She loved reading and even then thought deeply about most things.  She was witty and very clever and talked me into attending to a residential summer camp for girls in New Hampshire called Kehonka "Blue Goose" (unfortunately not the home of Grey Goose Vodka). So for two summers when we were 13-14 off we went to live in army surplus tents raised on wooden decks ("I'm paying how much for that?" complained my dad).  We swam in the cold waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, paddled canoes, practiced archery, sang at campfires and our favorite activitiy was horseback riding.  Betty, as always, performed with dignity and a perfectly straight back - prancing, canter, gallop.  And I made her look even better with my pathetically poor sense of balance, falling off my horse while doing stretching exercises at walking pace.  Happily Betty thought I did it just to make the class laugh.....  She encouraged me to read more and I remember plowing through the hefty "Gone with the Wind" at camp.  I will always remember Betty's lovely smile and (enviously) her elegant slim physique.  We caught up via email after the 40th reunion when she was living in Berkeley but alas never met in person.  I was sure that I would catch up with her on one of our trips to visit our son's family in San Francisco, but I waited too long. Thank you, Kylie, for sharing some of Liz's life story beyond NCHS.  I am grateful to both you and Betty for inspiring me back in the day to be more adventurous!




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