Elizabeth Lamb Wegener, aka “Bonnie,” “Grami,” “Liz,” and “Betta,” was in born Evanston, Ill., on March 26, 1921, passed away on Sunday, May 20, 2018. She was clear sighted, fun loving, and blessed with innate good taste. She had the ingredients of a brilliant charmer, bringing everyone from small children to fierce academics, and even fiercer street gang members, to swamps full of snakes, under her spell. She was intellectually and physically brave. Elizabeth loved to drive fast. She found joy in steering through back roads governed only by intuition and superior motoring skills. She may have accidentally taught her daughters how to sneak the family car out of the driveway.
Her driving took her out of Chicago into the surrounding prairie lands and beyond. Her mother, Agnes Nelson Lamb, took Elizabeth, her older brother, Jimmy (James) Lamb, and younger sister, Mary Hoaglund Vedder, camping. She learned her woodcraft and camp lore from her father, George Newton Lamb. Elizabeth was an excellent shot and damp campfires lit from the pure force of her will, or so her three daughters say.
If she got her adventuring spirit from her father, mother, Agnes Nelson’s family provided a base for her progressive political life. Her grandfather, John Mandt Nelson was Superintendent of Dane County Wisconsin schools, and elected 14 times to the U.S. House of Representatives. While her grandmother, Thea Johanna Stonedahl, used her Washington platform to become a prominent suffragist. Elizabeth was president of her local League of Women Voters chapter, she marched for civil rights, and was a champion for equality.
She said her first marriage to Willard Meier was too early and for the wrong reasons. But she found a soulmate in flight-surgeon, Alfred A Schiller (d.1955), whom she married in 1947, participating in the activity known as the baby boom. Paula Caroline Schiller, and Julie Johanna Schiller were taken camping from their respective starts. Pre car seats and seat belts, the Schillers improvised and little Julie travelled in a wooden box wedged securely in the back seat.
Alfred died suddenly in San Francisco, where he had flown to attend a medical conference. Elizabeth had taken her daughters on one of those cross country road trips, planning to pick up Alfred for the drive home. Elizabeth drove home alone, through the night, with 7 year old Paula and 3 year old Julie asleep in their backseat nests.
Elizabeth, stricken but resolute, found new hope in Charles Wegener, PhD. (d. 2002) whom she married and with whom added a third daughter into the new family. Amy Elizabeth Wegener (Noble), took up the third space in the back seat. The summer camping and road trips continued, but then gave way to the summer farm.
When Charles and Elizabeth bought the “worst farm in Iowa County,” Charles, a philosophy professor and urban gentleman, was thrown into country life at the deep end. It wasn’t long before he was wearing jeans and putting his considerable mind and design ingenuity to practical work on the ground.
Elizabeth taught for 20 years at Walter Scott Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago. She also taught at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. In the 1970s she took a sabbatical and travelled the United States, coast to coast, alone in a little motor home because she wanted to explore her inner landscape on her own terms. She experimented with different modes of healing herself and others. It was a pilgrimage with no preset route. She discovered her wisdom and her ability to connect with people was valued, and she became a qualified therapist. She was also a generous patron of the arts and environmental causes.
Elizabeth’s ability to connect with people turned friends and neighbors into family. She was a member of the Co-Op Grocery Store, Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, League of Women Voters and the Revelers theatrical group. Her friends were for life. Her Circle was both wide and deep. Although she sometimes lamented outliving her friends, 10 years in her lofty Capital Lakes apartment saw her making dear new old friends.
Marriage has added three sons-in-law; Charles J. Risch; Bruce J. Noble; and Patrick T.F. Gowans; three grandsons, Max William Schiller Risch; James Thomas Risch; Andrew Charles David Noble; and granddaughter-in-law, Sonia Rupcic. Elizabeth counts the Lama family: Monica, Lewis, Francesco, Antonio and Marco as adoptees. Many meals, bottles of wine, support and joie de vivre were shared in the later years of her life.
Goodbye Mother, Grami, Elizabeth, Betta. You are removed from our eyes but never from our hearts. “Now go have some fun!”
A Remembrance Celebration will be held at Capital Lakes, 110 S. Henry Street, Madison, on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Agrace HospiceCare Foundation, 5395 E. Cheryl Pkwy, Madison, WI 53711 or to “Healing House,” Madison Area Urban Ministry, 2115 S. Park St. Madison, WI 53713.
The family wishes to extend their gratitude to Agrace HospiceCare, Inc. for their support in her final days. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.