Elizabeth Andrews died unexpectedly and peacefully at home in Brunswick ME in the early morning of June 10, 2022, two weeks after returning from a three-month trip on the west coast. In hundreds of comments on social media, in emails, and in cards mailed to the family, people remembered her with loving stories and tributes, and they remembered her smile – how it was so big, so bright, and came so easily. And they remembered her heart – how open and interested she was in everyone, how that huge heart led her to be a model and a mentor, unassumingly, to so many girls and young women.
Elizabeth was born on March 18, 1949, to Elizabeth “Betty” Whorf and Oliver Andrews, Jr. in Lewiston ME, where her father was a French professor at Bates College. Her father left the family in 1952 and Elizabeth (called “Boo” until she was in her 30s) landed at her grandmother’s in Winchester MA with her mother, brother Andy, and sister Rosie.
Betty remarried and the family settled in East Haddam CT, where Elizabeth got a taste of the wider world by selling tickets during the summer stock season at the box office at the Goodspeed Opera House and becoming an “ugly” (a theater tech, most of whom lived in “Ugly Manor”). She worked and lived with theater people – Betty rented rooms to the actors – from around the country. Eager to escape her small town, Elizabeth researched and applied to boarding schools and, with financial help from her aunt Adelaide and her grandmother, she went to Northfield School in Mount Hermon MA and then MacDuffie School in Springfield MA, where she graduated in 1967.
When it came time for college, Elizabeth was pulled in two directions: family history (mother and grandmother, Smith College; father, Harvard College) and the energy of the late 1960s. The 60s won, and Elizabeth said farewell to traditional academics and, attracted by the work-study opportunities, went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs OH. (One of her favorite Antioch stories was taking a class from a professor who was tripping on LSD while teaching the class to sing “Help!” in Spanish.)
In work-studies during the next two years Elizabeth lived in Manhattan in a fourth-floor walkup on 42nd Street while teaching science at the New Lincoln School on 110th; created a sound clip library for the audio department of WGBH in Boston; taught Black history at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe NM. She eventually landed in Placitas NM where she lived on her own, protected by “Whoomph,” her German shepherd, in a no-plumbing adobe hut in the high desert, studying photography at the University of New Mexico and waitressing at the notorious Thunderbird Cafe.
In 1970 Elizabeth went to a wedding of some Antiochians in Birch River WV, and ended up staying and working with the group at their farm/ashram. No electricity, no running water, just a pump, a stream, a three-seater outhouse, kundalini yoga, and lots and lots of chanting. She eventually moved on, hitchhiked around Europe for several months with her sister Rosie, went back to the southwest, and then, tired of all the coming and going and the heat and the dust, she moved to Maine where her mother was a grade school teacher in Searsmont. She waitressed in Camden and worked with developmentally disabled children at the residential Bancroft School in Owl’s Head.
Within two years Elizabeth was married to her first husband, Ben Ellison, and began seven years of living aboard Alice, a 40-foot wooden sloop, summer and winter (coal stove!) in Camden Harbor. They took tourists for day sails and, in the off-season, sailed Alice twice to the Bahamas and Haiti. When Ben worked one winter on oil rigs on the Gulf Coast, Elizabeth waitressed in New Orleans, learning the tricks of the trade, upselling expensive wine to drunk tourists. Back in Maine she became a Hurricane Island Outward Bound Instructor and Watch Officer on the iconic “pulling boats,” 30-foot, double-ended, 12-oar, sprit-rigged open ketches, and then went to the Florida Keys to work the first pulling boat trip at the new Hurricane Island sea program there. By 1977 she had her Master Captain’s License from the Coast Guard to captain 20-ton sailing vessels and had finished her Antioch BA in elementary education.
In 1978, two momentous events: the birth of Elizabeth’s daughter Jesse and the invention of the Baby Bag. Jesse was an active kid and trying in the winter to get her into a snowsuit and then into a carrier for a walk or a ski was such a struggle that Elizabeth decided there had to be a better way. She sat down at her sewing machine and made a quilted hooded bunting with roomy legs and no sleeves, easy to slide a baby in, easy to use in backpacks, carriers, and carseats. She got a design patent (#267,284) to protect the product and took the prototype to a booth at the Common Ground Fair. With the help of a $5,000 bank loan, by the end of 1979 she had sold almost a thousand Baby Bags, made by a local tent company and then a New Hampshire sportswear outfit. She persuaded Eddie Bauer to pick up the product in 1982, followed by L. L. Bean and REI in 1983, and, going year after year to trade shows in New York and Nevada, she built the Baby Bag Company into a presence in the children’s outerwear industry.
After a divorce, Elizabeth and Jesse moved to Portland. By 1988 Elizabeth and Leonard Commet Krill (a new husband scooped up on a blind date from Connecticut) had married, bought a Victorian farmhouse in Cumberland Center, and renovated the attached barn into offices for the company. She led the Baby Bag design team, sourcing materials from the hiking and camping industries, developing a growing array of children’s outerwear products, and managing the big clients, while her marketing staff serviced over 800 smaller vendors across the US and Canada.
Always innovative, Elizabeth crafted an arrangement with Malden Mills and Patagonia to allow her to make the first children’s outerwear using Patagonia’s “Synchilla” fleece, and later was the first children’s wear manufacturer to use Thinsulate and Supplex. She won entrepreneur awards from the Small Business Association and the YWCA, was Maine “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 1993, and was featured in stories in local papers and magazines, the Associated Press, Good Housekeeping, Parents Magazine, and ABC’s Good Morning America. By the early-90s, Elizabeth had added patents for the Baby Bag in Canada and Europe, had contract factories in New Hampshire, Georgia, and Washington, and had sold millions of dollars’ worth of Baby Bags and related children’s outwear.
But then, with the company set for its first million-dollar year, something hit Elizabeth quickly and hard. During the rest of her life it was given many names by many, many doctors – Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS), Guillain-Barre, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia, and, eventually, Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). Chronically exhausted and in pain, within a couple of months she was unable to sit in a chair for more than an hour, but held the company together as long as she could while she looked for a buyer, eventually selling to an established New York manufacturer.
With Jesse away at school in New Hampshire and eventually Barnard College in NYC, Elizabeth shut down operations in Cumberland Center. She and Leonard moved to an off-season waterfront rental in West Point ME. As a single mom in Portland she had had the wisdom to buy disability insurance, and, after many lawyers, medical depositions, and hearings, she succeeded, to her great chagrin and relief, to be declared 100% disabled by both the insurance company, and later, by Social Security, which helped make up for the loss of income. After five years in West Point she found out about the Two Echo Cohousing Community in Brunswick, where she and her husband designed and built a cozy house and where she worked to regain her health.
When her energies were good, Elizabeth did a lot. She cooked wonderful meals, took walks with friends, gardened, went birding, and traveled. She was an active member of the Two Echo community. She helped design and outfit the Common House kitchen, launched the landscape group, organized the semi-annual Work Days, helped with the House Concert series, led the unending battle with drivers from UPS and FedEx to respect the pedestrian way, and used her business expertise on the Finance Committee. She was a loving “auntie/grandma” to several generations of Two Echo kids.
When her energies flagged, Elizabeth stayed close to home, stayed in touch with her many friends, read hundreds of books, took care of her gardens and houseplants and her cats and her birds. She studied and became a Master Gardener. She worked closely with mentors and became a Hospice Volunteer. She worked on and off for several years with Neighbors Inc. as a home companion for the elderly. She became an enthusiastic birder, most recently attending Hog Island Audubon Camp with her sister Rosie, and, after three unsuccessful trips, managed to see the vagrant Steller’s sea eagle in Boothbay ME last winter.
Elizabeth and Leonard, a teacher, traveled widely in the summers and during school vacations – Jazz Fest in New Orleans, trips to France, Turkey, Denmark, Mexico, Hawaii, and all over Canada, from the Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Banff to Vancouver. Elizabeth captained their two trailerable West Wight Potter pocket cruisers (tiny Selkie I and somewhat larger Selkie II) up and down the east coast, as far north as New Brunswick and as far south as the Chesapeake Bay.
After Leonard retired, he and Elizabeth sold Selkie II and bought a small motor home, their beloved 24-foot RV, the Turtle, as a good way for Elizabeth to conserve her energies while traveling – no setting up and taking down a tent, no going in and out of restaurants, no moving in and out of motels. They traveled to the four corners (literally) of the US, having all sorts of adventures and meeting all sorts of people, spending almost 6 months on the road in the last four years.
Although certainly limited, since her forced retirement in the 90s Elizabeth generally did not seem chronically ill, but happy and fulfilled. If pushed, she would privately credit this, somewhat self-consciously, to her spiritual side. She studied Transcendental Meditation in the 60s, and in the early 70s taught herself to hand-calculate astrology charts using only an atlas and an ephemeris, generating hundreds of charts and transits for family and friends (using computers after they became available), becoming a skilled and helpful amateur astrologer. She was a life-long yoga practitioner, going on retreat several times in the Bahamas and at Kripalu in Stockbridge MA. A student of Mahayana Buddhism, Elizabeth took her refuge and bodhisattva vows in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibet and went on meditation retreats at Tail of the Tiger/Karme Choling in Barnet VT and IMS in Barre MA. An inveterate giver-away-er of books, Elizabeth bought and gave away more copies of books by the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron (who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome around the same time as Elizabeth) than by any other writer.
Elizabeth leaves a family loving and bereft, and a saddened and wide circle of friends in Maine and around the country. She is survived in Maine by her husband of 34 years, Leonard Commet Krill, of Brunswick; her daughter, Jesse Andrews Ellison, of Camden; her brother Oliver “Andy” Andrews III, of Phippsburg; her sister, Rosie Andrews, of Berkeley CA and Washington ME; and beloved in-laws and nieces and nephews in California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington, Nuuk (Greenland), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Trondheim (Norway).
Elizabeth was a ferocious and, recently, livid supporter of Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights. Supporting organizations and politicians that work to support women would be fitting and make her very happy.