Elizabeth Blanche Greist shuffled off her mortal coil in the early morning hours of August 23, 2019, moving on to the next Great Adventure, doubtless with the same zest and curiosity that defined her life on Earth. Open-hearted and open-minded, Liz was never one to say “no,” or turn down an invitation for frolic, adventure or good food. Her failure to use her ticket at the recent Bay Area Rolling Stones concert a week before her death was the mark of the waning of her bright light. Zest, humor and resiliency defined her life; she embraced equally “the good, the bad, the ugly,” of life, and loved every minute of what Zorba the Greek called “the full catastrophe” of what it means to be a fully defined human being.
Born August 5, 1924 to Lois and John Leecing in Rocky Ford, Colorado, Liz only recently and casually mentioned that she remembered her own birth, and described it in the evocative, rich detail that reflected the soul of an artist. Artists see the world both for what it is, and also what it might be; they reflect through design and color the endless layers of meaning embedded in a moment in time, a scene or a person. Liz experimented with many media: watercolor, oils, weaving, and sculpture; her passion for art and life was reflected in each work.
After graduating from San Jose State University in 1948, Liz went on to Stanford Nursing School, where the trajectory of her life shifted; she met her future husband, Bud Greist, and married him after a whirlwind romance. She turned her nurturing skills to her five children, who followed in quick succession. Married for 60 years, she devoted her life to her husband and children, living the past 58 years in Livermore, California. No question, Liz’s true passion was in being a mother. She loved, nurtured and supported her five, as well as all of their friends over the years. From timing her baking so her children arrived home to the aroma of cookies or bread right out of the oven, to celebrating our birthdays with luscious homemade cakes; from serving entirely green meals on St. Patrick’s Day, to reading to us every night before bed, every act was super infused with love and joy. The kitchen is where her artistic flair truly came to life: pastas made from scratch, masterpieces of French cooking alá her mentor Julia Child, and dishes from nearly every culture known to man…and some even not known to man, when she substituted ingredients she didn’t have on hand, with those she did, and thus were born some exotic and sometimes strange new meals. Believing of course that dessert was the most important part of any meal, she planned that part of the menu first, designing the rest of the courses around it. Her cakes and pies were legendary, and she won many a blue ribbon at the Alameda County Fair with her infamous coconut and banana cream pies and their bountiful merengue tops.
She resonated resiliency and courage, and inspired her children and grandchildren to reach the same heights. As a young wife and mother, she traveled alone with her first several babies to the South Sea islands of Samoa and Guam, on navy transport, to join Bud, a Navy doctor stationed in the tropics during the Korean War; with nothing more than a few soda crackers and a bottle of baby formula in her pocket, she managed to create an adventure of it, making friends along the way, including the Royal Photographer for the Queen of England. She went on through life to travel to many parts of the world: China, Africa, Europe, and more near-home adventures, backpacking in the Sierras, rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (at an older age even), and flying to Mexico and throughout the west with Bud, a private pilot.
Liz was a devoted, hardworking member of many philanthropic and educational organizations, hospital guilds, and enrichment groups. She charmed everyone she talked with, and made them feel as if they were the most important person in the room.
She was predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Dr. Elwood C. Greist, Jr; her daughter, Becky Greist Fellerman; and her grandson, Peter Greist.
Liz is survived by her children Stephen (Molly), Polly (Bill), Marty (Mannie), and David (Donna), as well as adopted family, Bob Voss, Darla Munson, and Sue Padgett, whose innumerable acts of kindness and practical help over the years define them as remarkable human beings. She also leaves behind many grandchildren—Anna (A.J.), Chris (Donna), Luca, Greg, Nick, Robin, Julian, Caitlin, Amie, (Jenn), Travis (Jen), Luke, Dylan, Will)—who were lucky enough to grow into adulthood with her love and guidance; and finally her great-grandhildren (Max, Charlotte and Gunnar) who were her great joy.
She cherished the friendships and joyous spirit of her Birthday Group: Jane Nissan, Jan Cerruti, Lin Tobin, Ginger Becker, and Tressie Kirkman, longstanding partners in gustatory hijinks.
Her beloved companion dog Rosie will be eagerly awaiting Liz’s arrival across the Rainbow Bridge. In her absence, the world is a less colorful, vibrant place; but in her honor, she would want you to “Eat Dessert First,” and “Just Say Yes.”
Services will be scheduled at a later date. Arrangements to be announced.