In Memory

Emily Newbury

Emily Newbury

From Paul Barnes: 

I learned yesterday morning of the passing on Monday, May 5 of our friend and classmate, Emily Newbury, who succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)-related causes in the care center where she had been residing in Vashon, Washington. Emily and I had been in regular contact over the last several months -- through email and via Facebook. It was her wish that her condition be kept private, to be shared only with those closest to her, and I realize I risk breaking confidence by divulging these details here. But I believe it wasn't so much a matter of her privacy, as it was Emily's refusal to let people categorize her as a "PALS" (Person with ALS) and her resistance to labels of any kind. Emily was determined to live her life fully to the end, and demanded that she be treated as a completely present human being, rather than as someone easily dismissed, incapable of thought, perception, feeling, and expression. 

As those of us who knew her might suspect, Emily faced her fate head-on, with a kind of clear-eyed courage that I'm not sure I myself could summon. She was resilient, feisty, and even in her last months, when she lost all power of movement and speech but was still able to communicate via eye-activated computer technology, spirited, funny, and full of astute, often acerbic -- and as often, kind observations. Emily followed the 2014 Winter Olympics with relish, as she did the United States and World Figure Skating Competitions that were prelude to the Sochi Games. She was fierce to the end, and determined not to go quietly into whatever dark night might be awaiting her. As I understand it, Emily died outdoors, in the sun, looking at the ocean (near to which she had hoped to be able to spend her final months). The last quote Emily posted on her Facebook page was by Mother Teresa, and I know how much Emily's deep religious convictions were a comfort to her. 
In my eyes, Emily was the Gwen Verdon, the pre-'New Age' Shirley MacLaine of our class. Talented, sassy, long-legged, red haired, wickedly funny, and a serious and well-trained dancer. As happens, we lost contact not too long after high school, though we saw each other in San Francisco and New York within a few years of graduation, and I have few details about her life between then and now. But I do know that Emily was well-traveled and an incredibly curious, passionate, and physical person throughout her life: a surfer, snow-boarder, chef, dancer, and all around bon vivant. By all accounts, she led a vibrant and committed life, with plenty of ups and downs, many highs and lows. That a dancer and someone who lived in her body as much as did Emily could have been constrained and shackled by a disease like ALS -- among them all, perhaps the cruelest; certainly one of the cruelest -- and to preside over her own physical demise with her mind absolutely in tact -- is an unbearable irony. For those of us who knew Emily, perhaps there is comfort in knowing that she has been released into a freer and more joyful beyond, wherever and whatever that may be. I imagine Emily dancing in the firmament now, and that the stars are twinkling with greater grace and power for having her among them.

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05/07/14 07:45 AM #1    

Susan Hill

Beautiful tribute, Paul. Thank you for sharing Emily's life with us.

05/07/14 08:37 AM #2    

Robin King (Asher)

Emily was one of the classmates I was fervently hoping to find. (Paul Barnes was another.) Emily had a Morris Minor (as I recall), and we had wonderful adventures in that car, including Santa Cruz. The tribute written by Paul describes Emily to a T. She was our Amelia Earhart, our Gypsy, and yes, our Shirley MacLaine. She gave me courage in high school - to speak out, to dance, to dare - and her memory gave me courage in life. Thank you, Emily, and fare you well. It's nice to think of you dancing again.

05/07/14 09:40 AM #3    

Paul Barnes

Oh, yes. . .  that Austin Minor!  Feared for our lives, when we were able to stop laughing. 

05/07/14 11:30 AM #4    

Mark Baugh

If I had not been on the Stage Crew I would likely not know who Emily Newbury was but thankfully I do. Thank you Paul for writing another wonderful goodbye to yet another classmate. Knowing how we lost Emily, to me, personalizes why she is gone.

06/09/14 07:31 AM #5    

Daniel Davis

An incredible eulogy for a dynamic person!  Thank you Paul!

06/12/14 01:08 PM #6    

Sara Hambleton (Cory)

I too have been trying to locate our beautiful red haired Emily. I saw a Life magazine cover photo featuring her dancing, soon after graduation. I loved being in the musicals with her. We all will miss her. I know she is in heaven dancing with the angels. May God be with be with her family.

02/25/15 12:28 PM #7    

JoAnne Dickinson (Ryker)

That was an amazing tribute for an amazing lady and prior classmate!

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