Joy Williams says Goodbye to Liz Lear

Liz Lear arrived in Key West in 1957 and soon became an essential member of Key West’s literary community. Liz was a vital presence during the early years of the Key West Literary Seminar and, until her death on December 15, 2017, served on our board of directors for nineteen years. On February 5, a memorial service was held in the gardens of the West Martello Tower. Tributes were made by friends and admirers including Ann Beattie, Lee Smith, Miles Frieden, Hal Crowther, and Joy Williams, whose eulogy is reproduced below:

Liz Lear

Liz had many, many friends and many of them were writers and artists. We were all together for a long moment that was our moment in Key West. It was the 70s and the 80s and the 90s and it was a wonderful improbable unfettered moment and Liz was at the very heart of it. She was an unabashed enthusiast of Key West. She wanted people of interest (in the way it should be defined) to love it here and buy houses here and have parties and be happy here. She brought us together and kept us together. When one wandered off—fame, trouble, a partner who hadn’t succumbed to the Rock’s singular charms, she was saddened, and tirelessly sought their return. We were her chicks, her dears.

I see her so vividly. (Of course she was immortalized in that long take in the classic flick The Key West Picture Show, on the beach, thoroughly applying suntan lotion.) I see her in her pretty dresses, her necklace of keys. Those keys! She was a divine hostess and a faithful friend. She bore the tragedy of her daughter Genevieve’s death with tremendous grace. Genevieve said she wanted a portion of her ashes scattered on “a friendly reef,” a phrase which Liz delighted in. Liz chose to be buried in the rocky earth. Because it harbors Liz, I can think of it as friendly ground.

A Psalm tells us: We are as grass in the morning, it flowers and grows—in the evening it is cut down and withers.

A Psalm tells us: We spend our years as a tale that is told.

If you’re not Bible-ey, there is the poet Phillip Larkin’s encapsulation of our dilemma, which is life:

And so unreal
A touching dream to which we are all lulled
But wake from separately

Goodbye Liz. You were such a large and essential part of our touching dream here. Miss you. Love you.



[ Joy Williams ]

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