Beth Taylor, president of the Codman Community Farms board of directors, died peacefully at home in Lincoln the early evening on April 10, 2017, in the arms of her husband, Tim Barclay. She was 87 years old.
Beth was born in Richmond, Va., and graduated from Wellesley College in 1951. After graduation, she went to England, where she taught at Little Gaddesden School in Hertfordshire, what we would call an elementary school, and in 1960 became assistant principal for three years in the principal’s absence. Returning summers to the States, she got a master’s in education from Harvard in 1953.
In 1964, Beth became the head of the elementary school in Grantchester, just outside of Cambridge, England. She was the first American to be the head of a British public school. Beth transformed this village school into an open classroom school. Grade levels were combined, many lessons were project-based, there was an emphasis on art and outdoor activities, but all within strictly set expectations and rules.
The student body was a mix of professors’ children from Cambridge, including children of Nobel laureates and local Grantchester village children, some of whom had never even been outside the village. Grantchester School became famous as a model of open classroom education and was visited by educators from all over England and other countries, including the U.S.
While in England, Beth met Leonard Lerman, a molecular biologist. They were married in Richmond, Va., but later divorced.
Beth’s passionate interest in children and education continued when she returned to the States in 1973. Over the next 30 years, she taught teachers at Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., and Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass. In addition to teaching education, she trained Head Start teachers, worked on programs for children with learning problems, and conducted state, city, town, and school surveys and evaluations of classroom education, including recommendations. In 1997 Beth co-founded the Mission Hill School, a K-6 school, in Roxbury, where she taught for six years.
A lover of travel, and nature, Beth went on a cruise on the Nile River all the way up to the Blue Nile and back, spending time in Cairo. On another trip, she went hiking in the Northwest.
At any gathering, Beth always talked to everyone and remembered their names and faces thenceforth. She would ask people how they were, their children and boy or girl friends or spouses and their children, and what school or college, and “how is your mother?”—everyone by name. Beth also loved music; she liked to sing, although she was not able to carry a tune. A keen equestrian, she won a ribbon as a child and continued riding into the ’80s. Mephisto and Nikki, two Weimaraners, very intelligent and loving dogs, were her successive companions after her divorce.
Beth met Tim in 1967 when he was on sabbatical with his family from the Commonwealth School in Boston. Tim volunteer-taught at Grantchester School two days a week. In 1970, before becoming head of Cambridge Friends School, he went back for a month in the summer to get a further grounding in elementary open-class education. Over the following years, they saw each other only once at a party, where they sat and talked the entire evening. Then in 2003, a mutual friend alerted both that they were now unattached. Tim said, “It was like a dove falling from the sky!” Beth said, “It was like flying to heaven!” Beth and Tm were married on January 24, 2004 and celebrated the wedding with a barn dance at the Codman Community Farms barn in August. The rest is history—14 beautiful years.
Travels together included several trips to England and the Continent, and in 2014 a walk in the Footsteps of St. James: El Camino de Santiago, led by their close friend Mary Gaylord, head of the Spanish Literature Department at Harvard.
Upon moving to Lincoln in 1982, Beth quickly became involved in Codman Community Farms, a nonprofit working farm, serving on the board of directors for three different terms, presently as president of the board. She was also in charge of the Pick-Your-Own Garden and on the Agricultural Committee. At the farm and in the town, she shared her enthusiasm for local and sustainable agriculture.
Beth is survived by her husband of 14 years, Tim Barclay; three stepchildren from her first marriage (Averil, Lisa, and Alex Lerman), four children of her husband (Bill, Mary, David and Jeanne), her brother David Taylor, two nieces (Ann Atwill and Bette Tedford), seven Lerman family step-grandchildren (Rushi, Sam, Sarah, Yinshi, Abe, Dania and Ben), and five Barclay family grandchildren (Will, Zoe, Chris, Alex and Chris).
Beth will be remembered for her strong passions, consideration of others, commitment to social justice, and indomitable energy. a celebration of her life will be held at the Codman Community Farms Barn, 58 Codman Rd., Lincoln on Wednesday, May 3 from 6–10 p.m. with food and music. May 3 is Beth’s birthday and also the anniversary of when Beth and Tim re-met. Donations in Beth’s honor can be made to the Codman Community Farms, which she loved deeply, to help support planting and upkeep of flower gardens around the main barn and milk house/office.
Arrangements are under the care of the Dee Funeral Home of Concord. To share a remembrance or to send a condolence in Beth’s online guestbook, please click here.