"She was the smartest, hardest working, and committed person I ever met. Yet she was also, kind, gentle, loving and compassionate. She gave of herself, to do good and make the world a better place for everyone." This is how Jim Duff remembers wife, Beth.
I was supposed to meet with Beth this past summer for a College Connections interview. I wanted to hear about her experiences at Michigan and her experiences post-graduation.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Beth passed away on St. Patrick's Day 2010 after a 10-year battle with cancer.
Her husband Jim however asked if I would be willing to meet with him. He wanted to tell me her story - he wanted to share with me the legacy that she left and about the lives that she has touched in the process. Jim and I met for lunch at a Dupont Circle restaurant and for more than three hours, he talked, I listened and asked the occasional question, and together we cried a lot.
Through Jim, I learned about Beth, a wonderful person who valued education, knowledge, honesty, integrity, trust and a belief in a god. Jim told me of her four master degrees (Library Science '67, Public Administration '75, Computer Science '81 and Information Technology '93) and that Beth had over 1,000 books in her home library.
It was evident to Jim that Beth valued education. "At Michigan, Beth gained a lot of critical thinking and problem solving skills. The university environment provoked thought about looking beyond what came easy when first considering a solution to a problem, a situation or a condition." And, her master degrees helped her in managing information so that it would be available to everyone that wanted to learn more."
"The University of Michigan," said Jim, "was a leap forward in her life of learning and the acquisition of knowledge to be put to good use." Answers came quickly to us both but she would keep at things until she felt she had the best answer. Her friends, co-workers and boss Olivia, in fact, told Jim many times that Beth was unwilling to settle for the quick fix. She wanted to solve things not just put them off with a quick answer now that eventually would have to be revisited later."
I learned about Beth's commitment to public service, conservation and educational opportunities. She was a volunteer for almost 10 years (Jim continues this work) at Miriam's Kitchen, in Washington, D.C. Jim is working to start a cereal donation program for Miriam's; it's the first thing the homeless eat when they come into Miriam's. It reminds him of Beth and the time shortly after they met when he gave her a Card that said "You're the Best thing to happen to me since I sent 50 cents and 2 box tops to Battle Creek." Beth participated in many mission/service projects (a week in Mississippi after Katrina), and volunteered her time, efforts, resources, and Jim for causes she believed in, especially conservation. She even convinced Jim to buy a Hybrid after he retired in '06, Jim was a muscle car man since his teen years, and then she bought a Green "car of the year" which was passed on to her son Larry when he received his first masters degree in May 2010.
Beth worked over 40 years for the Department of the Interior, in a variety of positions, last of which was in Interior's Office of Conservation and Educational Partnerships. This past summer Jim received Interior's "Partners In Conservation Award", awarded posthumously to Beth. "In recognition of outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnership with others."
Beth left a strong legacy not only at her job but also to her family, her community and the world. When Jim told me through tears about her interests, her contributions, her charities, her four Master degrees and how she continued to work through the chemo, the treatments and the pain, I felt honored to have beheld the spirit of a Wolverine who didn't give up, a Wolverine who never gave up on her desire to improve our world.
Her last words to Jim were, "I thought I would have more time."
Read more about the Beth Linscheid Duff Memorial Scholarship here.