Long-time volunteer Treasurer for the Albany Chamber of Commerce Elisabeth Bell, known as Liz, died Wednesday, December 12, 2012. She passed away peacefully after battling a very aggressive form of cancer.
Liz Bell was born Elisabeth Ehrig, November 17th, 1926, in Ellefeld, Germany, a relatively small town outside of Berlin. Her early childhood was a happy one, days exploring what were then the enchanted woods and lush open fields just outside of town. All of that was soon to come to an end with rise of the Nazi Regime.
Liz’s mother, who raised her on her own, relocated to Berlin during World War II, where Liz managed to avoid the “national service” required of most German citizens by working as an apprentice to a dressmaker. According to a front page article penned in The River Oaks News in 1959, after the war, having earnestly studied English in school, Liz became a “coffee girl” at the Berlin Airport. There she met the Sid Bell, a Master Sergeant in the U.S Air Force, who served during the Berlin Airlift. The two soon married, and moved to the United States.
Sid was soon stationed in Okinawa, Japan, where Liz landed a job as a teller for American Express. Speaking impeccable English and German, and some Japanese, and having a head for numbers, Liz soon advanced to management.
The military relocated Sid to Texas, where Liz pursued her career as a banker, one that would lead her eventually to the Bank of America in the East San Francisco Bay, where she worked until retirement. The couple settled in Albany, where they lived quiet lives, listening to jazz, and a broad range of other musical genres. Both were voracious readers as well, interested in international literature, history, and politics, subscribing to a number of magazines, and carefully perusing the Oakland Tribune on a daily basis. Sid died in 2001, leaving Liz alone in their apartment, a place she remained until her death last month.
Even before Sid’s death, Liz continued her interest in business, serving voluntarily as the Treasurer of the Albany Chamber of Commerce for many years. In 2010, Liz fell in the shower, where she remained unattended, unable to move for three days until rescued. She never fully recovered from that ordeal.
Though she kept to herself, Liz had many friends. Among them is Richard Gong, who met Liz while he served as an Albany High School intern for the Chamber of Commerce. Upon graduation, Richard won a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated in 2005.
Richard recollected the friendship the two established, Liz a woman who never lost her desire to learn new things, Richard a brilliant and ambitious young student. “Liz was a courageous soul. I remember showing her how to use spreadsheets (on the computer), how to download music and send email. She would keep asking questions and taking notes until she mastered it. She loved playing jazz on her computer. She would tell stories about the Berlin airlift, share her photo albums and give me cool presents like slide rules and protractors. She was like a grandmother to me...”
Liz choose to be cremated, her ashes to be released in the Pacific Ocean, along with those of her long departed husband, Sid.