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Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 24, Number 3 (June 1978)

Batt, James R.
Elizabeth, remembered,   pp. 3-6


Page 3


Elizabeth, Remembered
                        by James R. Batt
  Tuesday, March 28, was a time
of the turning of the seasons. The
sun that day gave off the soft
radiance so characteristic of early
Wisconsin spring. A promising
warmth could be felt upon the
cheek, even while the breeze told of
having escaped only recently from
snow-laden lands. And it was on
this day that Dr. Elizabeth F.
McCoy was reluctantly and tender-
ly given up to native ground at
Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery.
She had died four days earlier,
enroute to a hospital from her farm
home just outside the city, where
for the preceding week she had
been confined by what she had
described to anxious callers as "the
flu."
  Her resting place is within the
reach of the boughs of a great white
oak, one that stands tall and true,
its sturdy branches stretching up-
ward and outward in all directions.
From this site, before summer
foliage obscures j the far horizon,
glimpses of the University campus
can be seen off to the east. Nearby
is a quiet, residential area. Within a
short walk, Confederate soldiers,
one-time prisoners of Camp Ran-
dall, sleep beneath orderly files of
worn headstones, as does a con-
tingent of Union troopers a short
distance away.
  In death, this seems a fitting
place for Elizabeth McCoy. She is
surrounded by symbols of what she
loved in life: nature, history, the
University, the variety and adven-
ture that is life. (A young boy cuts
through the cemetery, a black dog
of mixed breed close at his heels.
Dogs are not allowed in this place,
and young boys are no doubt highly
suspect. But Dr. McCoy would
take pleasure at the scene.)
  Those who were closest to her
had come to think of her as in-
domitable, given of a life force as
constant and as vibrant as the
seasons-as graceful, as strong, and
as wide-reaching as the oak that
marks her grave. She was Wiscon-
sin through and through, and
Wisconsin and we are the poorer'by
her death and the richer by her life.
  Still, it is wrong to think of
Elizabeth as here, here at Forest
Hill. She is abroad even yet. She is
abroad in the minds and the hearts
of her many former students,
whose lessons from Elizabeth
spoke to the human spirit as much
as to the human intellect. She is
abroad through her lifetime of
scholarly research, which shall long
point the way toward new dis-
coveries and new knowledge. And
she is abroad daily in the lives of
her countless friends and
colleagues, who knew her for what
she was: a rare wine of a woman, a
classic vintage of truth, of beauty,
and of goodness.
  Dr. McCoy abounded in
resourcefulness and resolve. My
earliest memory of her is at a time
shortly after my appointment as
executive director of the Academy.
It was a raw, March day in 1972,
and the two of us were exploring
the site of her "Lake Farm,"
situated along the shore of Lake
Waubesa. This was prior to the
acquisition of Steenbock Center,
and Elizabeth had suggested the
farm as a possible temporary
Academy headquarters. We ap-
proached a barbed-wire fence. In
what I intended to be a gentlemanly
gesture, I offered to hold down the
wire while she passed over it into
the other field. "Oh," she said,
"I've a better way than that, thank
you." In the blink of an eye the dis-
tinguished professor of
bacteriology whose research had
won her international recognition
and a variety of professional
honors, clutched the long, black
faille coat about her lean frame, fell
to the ground, and with a quick
turn was under the wire and
standing upright and opposite me.
  In the years that followed, there
were many other things about
Elizabeth McCoy that were to
amaze and delight me. Once, a
member of the Academy Council
was late for a mid-winter meeting,
explaining that his delay was
necessitated by having had to
shovel a driveway of 50 feet. I
could only smile, for there sat
Elizabeth, well ahad of the open-
ing gavel despite l iaving hand-
shoveled 150 feet of the farm lane
leading from her home to the
highway. Until the irreplaceable
grate of her coal furnace gave way
in irreparable manner, she had
stoked the firey monster on her
own throughout the winter
months. It yielded to her grit ever
so much as did the several acres of
June 1978/Wisconsin Academy Review/3


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