Elizabeth “Beth” Lerbinger (Thomson) of Newton Highlands died in her sleep after an extended illness on February 8, 2020, just shy of her 93rd birthday. She was born in Oshawa, Ontario Canada in 1927 and during her childhood, she lived in Oshawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Port Hope. She attended Victoria College, University of Toronto, where she studied English. There Beth thrived, particularly enjoying classes she took with Northrup Frye. After earning a BA with Honors in English Literature, she and a friend came to Boston in 1949 for a year-long adventure, living and working in a North End settlement house and later in East Boston. Fortunately for us all, Beth ended up staying in Massachusetts for a lifetime.
Beth and Otto Lerbinger were married in 1952, just three months after meeting through mutual friends. Otto had volunteered to help paint her room and feeling guilty for spilling paint on her coat, asked her out to dinner, beginning a partnership that lasted nearly 68 years. They delayed having children for four years in order for Otto to complete his Ph.D. and so they could go on a European adventure. Later they moved to Cambridge, where their daughters Jan and Susan were born and then raised in a lively neighborhood. In1967, they moved to Newton Highlands where Beth remained until her death.
Beth was committed to education and once her daughters were in school, obtained a Master’s of Education in Counseling from Boston University. Unable to find a counseling position, she took a course in teaching learning-disabled students and taught special-education students for four years at a Newton junior-high school. Subsequently, she worked for ten years as an elementary school counselor in Walpole, where she loved the children and made several longtime friends. After retiring, she continued to work in education, including a year at Burlington Community College as a writing tutor, and later as a personal ESL tutor. One of her favorite students was a Chinese opera singer.
Throughout her life, Beth was intellectually curious and rigorous. She was an avid reader and wrote many poems that reflect the various stages and moods in her life. A favorite activity was meeting with four dear friends, poetry-loving women, to discuss reactions to, and ideas about, poems each had read and treasured. Beth also took a course in children’s literature and wrote several children’s stories, including a full-length book.
She loved to travel with her husband, visiting many countries in Europe including England and Scotland. She also visited Columbia and Chile in South America, and Australia, and New Zealand. She had a strong social conscience and actively participated in vigils for peace and letter-writing campaigns. Physically, her activities included a vigorous aerobics class, neighborhood walks, and yoga. She enjoyed and played recorder with a special friend for many years. She also studied German with a dear friend and together they became fluent, reading the original (German) version of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
A sensitive, empathic soul, Beth was a beloved friend to many, ranging from college classmates to colleagues, neighbors, and beyond. She had lifelong friends from all stages of her life with whom she corresponded regularly. As her circle of friends diminished over time, she kept each one in her heart and felt each was irreplaceable.
Her major passion was her family whom she loved deeply —her husband, her two daughters, her sons-in-law, and her grandchildren. She was always intensely concerned with their lives and delighted in their company. She is survived by her husband, Otto Lerbinger, her daughters Jan Lerbinger (Kurt Roth) and Susan (and Foster) Gesten, her grandchildren, Clara Roth and Owen Kobrel, her step-grandson, Noah Finlayson-Gesten, as well as beloved cousins. We all hold Beth in our hearts and miss her dearly.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 1:30 pm at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church located at 54 Lincoln St. in Newton, MA. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a charity of interest to Beth, such as the Newton Free Library or Doctor Without Borders.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Elizabeth "Beth" (Thomson) Lerbinger, please visit our floral store.