Obituary: Elizabeth Oakes, professor emerita of English

Elizabeth Oakes

Herald Staff

The following obituary was provided to the Herald by Greer’s Mortuary of Sedona located in Sedona, Arizona. 

Elizabeth Thompson Oakes – 1943 – 2017

Elizabeth Oakes transitioned at 12:48 AM on Dec. 30, 2017, surrounded by love and family.

Elizabeth and her husband John Warren Oakes began visiting Sedona, Arizona, in 2008 and moved permanently in 2012.

Elizabeth immediately became active in the literary and writing community. She read her poems at various venues, was an organizer and a patron of the Pumphouse Poetry and Prose Project and wrote two columns for Sedona Biz for two years, one on writing in Sedona, past and present, and another on spiritual subjects.

She was a member of the writing group, Wild Writing Women of the West, and started a writing group, SiteWrite, which went to various places to write.

She was also active in various groups in Sedona. She served as vice-president and president of the University Women of Sedona, was on the board of the Sedona Culture Collaborative, gave several talks on the history of women’s right to vote to the League of Women Voters and was a member of P.E.O. University Women established the Libby Oakes Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize her contributions as past president, scholar, poet and activist.

Elizabeth held a Ph.D. in Shakespeare from Vanderbilt University and taught at Western Kentucky University, where she also served as Graduate Director. In her career, she published Shakespeare journals, including the premiere one, The Shakespeare Quarterly, and presented her work on Shakespeare at many conferences, among them the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and the International Shakespeare Conference in Tokyo, Japan.

She retired in 2008 as a full professor and a professor emerita.

Elizabeth, who was a poet, graduated with a B.A. from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She wrote poetry through her academic career, but in 2004 she won the Pearl Poetry Prize, a national award based in California, which began a second career for her.

In her sixties, she published four volumes of poetry and two self-help spiritual books. Her poem, “When I Remember Lucille Clifton” was included in Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women.

Elizabeth was known for her intellectual curiosity, spiritual insight, kindness, humility, love of literature and art, passion for life, sense of gratitude, compassion and drive to make the world a better place. The word most often used to describe her was grace.

Elizabeth and John would have been married 52 years in 2018. They were the love of each other’s life, and devoted to each other. She is also survived by her children: Christopher (Katherine) of Chicago, Illinois, Marya (Sean Heeney) of Asheville, North Carolina, Antonia (Joe Nolan) of Nashville, Tennessee; granddaughter: Mira, of Asheville, North Carolina; brothers: Wendell Thompson of Owensboro, Kentucky, Dennis Thompson of Georgetown, Kentucky; and 11 nieces and nephews.

Friends celebrated her life on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Sedona Public Library. Libraries have been important to Elizabeth since she was a child waiting for the bookmobile in the small town where she grew up.