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Obituary for Elizabeth Newark

Elizabeth Newark, age 89, died December 25, 2018, at Three Links Care Center in Northfield, Minn. Elizabeth (originally Betty) Newark was born in London, England, on August 28, 1929, the younger of two children of Albert Ernest Victor and Edith Louise (Taylor) Newark. She attended the Tiffin Girls’ School in London. After completing school at the traditional age of 16, she trained as a secretary and worked in London. In the mid 1950s, she took a British government job in Sarawak, Borneo. This was followed by positions in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika), where she met and married Finbarr […]

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Elizabeth Newark, age 89, died December 25, 2018, at Three Links Care Center in Northfield, Minn.

Elizabeth (originally Betty) Newark was born in London, England, on August 28, 1929, the younger of two children of Albert Ernest Victor and Edith Louise (Taylor) Newark. She attended the Tiffin Girls’ School in London. After completing school at the traditional age of 16, she trained as a secretary and worked in London. In the mid 1950s, she took a British government job in Sarawak, Borneo. This was followed by positions in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika), where she met and married Finbarr “Barry” Dinneen in 1957, and Nairobi, Kenya, where their two children, Penelope and Hugh, were born. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1964 and divorced in 1972. When she resumed her maiden name in the early 1980s she legally changed her first name to Elizabeth, which she and most who knew her believed suited her so much better.

In San Francisco Elizabeth was a legal secretary for many years at Thacher, Jones, Casey & Ratcliffe and later at the leading law firm Pettit & Martin, where she survived the 101 California Street mass shooting in 1993. She recounted that the killer saw her but chose not to shoot her, and she was able to run to safety, though people she worked with were shot and killed. She retired soon afterward and the law firm dissolved in 1995, unable to survive the horrific event.

While working and raising her children Elizabeth followed her true calling as an author, often writing during her lunch hours. As Betty Dinneen she published several works of juvenile fiction and nonfiction about African wildlife. As Elizabeth Newark she published two novels inspired by Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” and a third that was a sequel to Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre.” She was active in the Bay Area chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Dickens Society, writing essays and presenting talks at meetings and conferences. Her unpublished works included short stories and a mystery novel. After the 1993 shooting, she began to write poems and self-published a collection called “My Muse is a Mosquito.”

One of her proudest accomplishments was buying and renovating her small Victorian house in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, which she shared with her beloved cat Zoe. When she bought her home in 1978, it was still unusual for a single woman to qualify for a mortgage.

Elizabeth was an avid reader and was rarely without a book close at hand. Favorites in addition to Austen and Dickens included mysteries and the regency novels of Georgette Heyer, which she reread countless times. She was a feminist and proud supporter of reproductive rights. She enjoyed gardening in the East African and Northern California climates. Her radio was always set to classical music. She was known for her frank opinions as well as for her wit, word play and spontaneous bursts of rhyme and song. She was a loving mother and grandmother and a strong, independent, extraordinary woman.

She relocated to Berkeley, Calif., in 2005 and to Northfield in 2015. The family wishes to express enormous gratitude to the wonderful staff of Millstream Commons and Three Links Care Center for their great care and affection.

Elizabeth is survived by her daughter Penelope (Penny) Dinneen Hillemann and husband David Keyes of Northfield, son Hugh Dinneen and fiancée Erika Sutinen-Gonzales of Berkeley, and seven grandchildren of whom she was so proud: Caiman, Eli, Kai and Taavi Dinneen and Phoebe, Harriet (Hallie) and Henry Hillemann. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Peter. A celebration of Elizabeth’s life will be held at a later date. Memorials are preferred to Planned Parenthood or African Wildlife Foundation and may be sent to Penny Hillemann at 12 Frances Circle, Northfield, MN 55057.

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