Priscilla Lasmarias Kelso of Newton, Massachusetts entered into eternal rest on September 15, 2021 at the age of 80, after a life of profound love and abundant laughter.
She was the loving wife of Rev. Barton L. Kelso, devoted mother of Rachel Alabiso and mother-in-law to Michael Alabiso of Winthrop, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of the late Alexander Lasmarias and Consorcia (Laxina) Lasmarias and sister of the late Alexander Lasmarias Jr, Leo Lasmarias and Aida Abjelina. She is survived by her siblings Joel Lasmarias, Ted Lasmarias, Reynaldo Lasmarias, and Ophelia Erasga along with several beloved cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family.
Priscilla was born in the town of Bais, in the province of Negros Oriental, in the Philippines. A proud Filipino, she moved through life with an insouciance born of her literary gifts and her constant search for balance between her Filipino and American cultural ties. She used the metaphor of “Growing Two Gardens” in speaking of both her Philippine beginnings and her American life. Priscilla was working on a book of the same title when she passed away.
Some of her earliest memories were of World War II and she often spoke of the juxtaposition of hearing bombs falling but also smelling the beauty of coffee blossoms as her family fled the horrors of war. She believed that God spared her life for a purpose. She learned to read as a toddler and later fell in love with poetry with her favorite authors being Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Oliver.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Silliman University, the oldest Protestant University in the Philippines. She served as editor of Silliman’s college newspaper, an experience that facilitated a full scholarship to travel to California at the tender age of 20. She earned a Master's degree in literature from Stanford University. Bringing her vibrant learning back to her dear home country, she went on to teach and then chair the English Department at Silliman University. A few years thereafter, she returned to the United States and held positions at institutions of higher education including the University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University and Boston University. Deeply passionate about international education, she has been guest speaker at conferences sponsored by Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wellesley College and Stanford University. Active in serving causes that she cared for, she sat on the Boards of Eastern University, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Presbyterians for Renewal. Priscilla also served as President of the Silliman Association of New England. For all of her excellence and service in higher education, Priscilla was recognized by Silliman University with its 2004 Outstanding Sillimanian Award (OSA), the highest and most coveted award for its alumni worldwide.
Priscilla was a fierce and bold voice for social change. An activist for peace, she marched to the Boston Common while seven months pregnant to oppose the Vietnam War, protested nuclear proliferation in the 1980s and welcomed refugees to live in her Newton home while they were resettled. She was passionate about giving back - whether it was creating opportunities for immigrant women newly-arrived to Boston or establishing health centers and libraries in her home country of the Philippines, or ensuring access to higher education for several nieces and nephews whom she sent to college – she would muster strength, influence and resources to help communities that she cared about.
Priscilla believed in the power of faith as a partner to Bart in his commitment to pastoral ministry for 30 years. She will be remembered for her sharp wit, her generosity of spirit, and her home's hospitality where guests enjoyed her Filipino noodles and famous ham soup, rarely leaving without the gift of a book or a poem.
She was often heard to say, “No matter how dark the night, morning always wins.”
A celebration of life will be held on November 6 at 2pm at the Newton Presbyterian Church, 75 Vernon St, Newton, MA 02458. It will also be live-streamed with details to follow.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to earthjustice.org
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