Elayne Nicholas, of Ithaca, NY died on November 6, 2020.
Passionate, hungry, brilliant. Faithful. A seeker who longed for and needed those she loved; who served others with kindness, lived in curiosity, and gave herself fully to the grand adventure.
All these pieces burst into life on April 6, 1953, as Elayne Barbara Cassidy, the daughter of Nicholas and Catherine Cassidy and younger sister to Charlotte, was born. Elayne remembered a rather idyllic childhood, in Uniondale, NY, enriched by music and dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles. That childhood hurtled by, and Elayne found herself savoring the richness of higher education at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Literature/Theatre, and her Master of Arts in Medieval English theatre and folk drama. She graduated with honors.
Theatre, music, and literature surrounded her all her life. While at Hofstra she married Brian Rose in 1973, a marriage that ended in divorce but one where a deep friendship remained and has continued throughout their lives.
Elayne completed her education, and then magic happened. She was one of the first two women British Airways sent to its Commercial Officers Managerial Training Program in London. It was a fiercely competitive, academically grueling course and she soared. Her studies sent her on practicums in Bombay, Nairobi, Colombo, Johannesburg, and Dar es Salaam, where she perfected her skills in every aspect of airport management, from flight planning to assessing the critical issues of the aircraft weight and balance accounting for the payload, fuel on board and the current and predicted meteorological conditions for takeoff and landing. She would later co-author a novel with Beth H. Evans about these remarkable years and call it The Watering Hole.
While in England, she met her husband of 39 years, Bob. On December 19, 1981, Elayne and Robert Anthony Nicholas exchanged vows in Palm Springs, California, after which they followed work to Los Angeles and then Florida before settling down in Ithaca, NY. Theirs was a marriage of deep and shared love for family. Elayne always said that she knew Bob was the one when she saw him with his nieces and nephews and brothers and sister and parents in the UK. His closeness and kindness was abundantly evident. They shared decades of joy in raising their sons, in a love of history and in traveling - a passion they both shared. By the time they chose Ithaca as their home, they had two children, Thomas and Benjamin, both of whom grew into and were deeply influenced by the culturally rich town where they developed their own considerable artistic gifts. Both grown sons have followed their own callings back to the NYC area, where Thomas and his wife Emily are raising their son Dylan, the sweetest grandson ever born; and Ben and his wife Whitney Theis thoroughly enjoy each other and their careers. In Emily and Whitney, Elayne gained two cherished daughters. Her love and devotion to her family were at the very root of her life.
Through the years, Elayne has worn many professional hats, most focused on fundraising for the Tompkins County Library (1996-2002), and Ithaca College (2002-2013). For the last several years, her warmth and passion, her hard work, and perseverance have allowed her to direct a major fundraising project at the Friends of Stewart Park.
Elayne found special joy working as the Campaign Manager for the Friends of Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY. In that capacity, she was able to give life to her love of children, her concerns for those who struggle, and her deep appreciation for the importance of play and beauty in children's lives, and in all lives.
Elayne was preceded in death by her dearly loved mother, Catherine Cassidy, the other half of her father Nick's very being. Kay's loss emptied Elayne of something she never fully regained, yet Elayne, Bob, her sister Charlotte, and her brother-in-law, Dan Ryan, have given their all to sustaining Nick in his loss.
Elayne's bountiful laugh was contagious and irresistible, and she laughed often and easily. She was a force of nature, whether as a breath of fresh air or as a hurricane-level wind for justice and change. At times, one could almost see her energy vibrating about her, watch the synapses snapping vigorously just above her forehead. She gobbled up news and life and local, national, and world events, and discussed them passionately and intelligently. She was ethical to a fine point, yet compassionate toward others who fell short. She ardently loved her family and her extended-family, her treasured dogs, her dear and loving friends. Through the proverbial thick and thin — the pains of growth, love, life, and relationships — Elayne remained totally committed and was an integral part of the hearts of all who loved her.
And she has left us decades too soon. Life has been inexcusably unfair to us all. We who loved her are at a loss, without words for our grief and disbelief. Langston Hughes seemed to have some sense of what we, who loved Elayne Nicholas, now know:
"Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead. Let life be like music, And death a note unsaid."
So many unsaid notes, in so many unfinished measures. We are bereft. In lieu of flowers, Memorial Gifts may be directed to the Library & Museum of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at Namgyal Monastery, 210 Tibet Drive, Ithaca, NY 14850 Office@namgyal.org c/o Ngawang. (607) 272-2785 A celebration of her life will be held at a future date.