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Elizabeth Forrer Chapman Beberman

Elizabeth Forrer Chapman Beberman, 93, of Savoy and formerly of Champaign, died at 1:04 a.m. Monday (December 18, 2017) at Willowbrook Memory Care, Savoy.

She was born on September 11, 1924, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of bebermanSamuel Forrer Chapman and Catharine Hinkin Chapman. She married Max Beberman in Nome, Alaska, in 1947.

Elizabeth was preceded in death by her husband; her son Philip Arnold Beberman; her parents; sisters Virginia Ketchum and Mary Roha, grandson Charles Max Beberman, son-in-law William Ira Heine and daughter-in-law Celia Shapland (Beberman); and a niece and nephew.

She will be loved forever by her surviving children: Lynne Beberman Hellmer (William Fillman) of Savoy, Ill.; John Russell Beberman (Cindy Craven) of Orland Park, Ill.; Alice Beberman Chute (John Desmond Frances Chute), Inveresk, Scotland; Martin Philip Beberman (Celia Shapland, deceased), Champaign, Ill.: Ruth Beberman Frost (Randy Frost), Newburyport, Mass.; Mary Beberman Heine (William I. Heine, deceased), Princeton, N.J.; James Howard Beberman (Regail Seay), Austin, Tex.; Sarah Beberman Tufte, (Tim Tufte), Champaign, Ill. Her daughters-in-law often said how much they appreciated her grace and acceptance of them as her daughters.

Elizabeth will be remembered by her grandchildren: Joshua Max Hellmer (Mary Lambert) of Tolono, Ill.; Lucas Andrew Hellmer (Stephanie Weber) of Bloomington, Ill.; Katharine Lee Beberman of Bourbonnais, Ill.; Chaloner John Spencer Chute (Fiona Simpson) of Edinburgh, Scotland; James Frances Chapman Chute of London, England; Daisy Elspeth Phoebe Chute of London, England; Henry Albert Beberman of Redmond, Wash.; Alice Clare Beberman of Portland, Ore.; Cierra Regail Beberman of Austin, Tex.; Spencer James Beberman of Austin, Tex.; Jack Beberman Tufte of Champaign, Ill.; and Virginia Elaine Tufte of Champaign, Ill. and great grandchildren: Lauren Mellissa Hellmer of Tolono, Ill.; Lillian Fay Hellmer of Bloomington, Ill.; and Benjamin Peter Edward Chute of Edinburgh, Scotland. Remaining survivors include her brother-in-law Max Roha of Brecksville, Oh., and numerous Ketchum and Roha nieces and nephews.

On her maternal side, Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Thomas Hinkin, a 19th century Welsh immigrant who arrived with his wife and family and worked as a fire marshal in the mining industry in Pottsfield, Penn. She was proud of her Welsh heritage. Her paternal side was notably descended from the First Families of Virginia and Mayflower Pilgrims. Her father was an Internal Revenue agent and her mother, a former private duty nurse, was a homemaker and noted flower gardener in Pittsburgh. Elizabeth was raised on a property growing over 1,200 varieties of daffodils.  

As a young girl, Elizabeth struck a bargain with her mother. “I will believe in God if I get to be a Brownie.” The next day her mother went into Pittsburgh to learn how to start a Brownie troop. Elizabeth looked adorable in her uniform.

Elizabeth spent the war years at Women’s College of University of North Carolina in beberman2Greensboro earning a degree in music education. She worked weekends in the dress department at Belk’s Department Store where she spent her entire paycheck dressing herself fashionably. Back home for the summers, she worked as a mail handler for Diamond Alkali where she perfected the art of a speedy delivery due to her unmatched ability to jump on and off the trolley car without paying the fare. One conductor chased her through a department store but she evaded him by hiding in the lingerie section.

Upon graduation, Elizabeth applied for three distant teaching posts. She eagerly accepted the telegraphed offer of a generous $2,900 salary to teach in Nome, Alaska--then a U.S. territory. This destination would allow Elizabeth the independence she sought for 21 years. She left Pittsburgh with a steamer trunk full of warm clothing but would soon need a full-length wolf parka.

Within days of her arrival, Elizabeth (the only young single woman in town) caught the eye of a New Yorker from the Bronx who had remained in Nome after discharge from the U.S. Army. Both were hired to teach at Nome Public Schools. The superintendent gave Elizabeth first-choice of one of two teaching assignments—English or mathematics. Informed that the New Yorker was a mathematician, she chose English.

Their romance blossomed and, as an enticement to marriage, Max assured her she’d never need a dictionary because he knew every word and he wouldn’t waste money on erasers because he never made a mistake. Elizabeth and Max Beberman were married five months later.

As a newlywed, Elizabeth played a “professional” joke on her mathematician husband when she secretly hacked out a crude solution to the monthly puzzle in Max’s mathematics journal and submitted it. Great was his shock when he discovered the following month that his new wife’s solution had been published. Max Beberman went on to become known internationally as the Father of New Math.

Upon completing his graduate degree at Columbia University, Max accepted a faculty position at University of Illinois so the young family moved to Champaign and lived in Stadium Terrace. Those were some of Elizabeth’s most cherished days surrounded by other young faculty families where children roamed safely and played outside all day. A neighbor once remarked how wonderful it was being a professor’s wife. Ever practical, Elizabeth retorted, “Well, I’d prefer to be married to a butcher. You get better cuts of meat.”

In 1954, the family suffered a great loss. Three-year old Philip was diagnosed with a brain tumor that resulted in his death after unsuccessful radiation treatment following surgery at University of Chicago Hospitals. The young couple took turns taking the train to and from the hospital but, sadly, neither was at his bedside when he died. She deeply mourned the loss of Philip her entire life. Five months later she gave birth to another son.

Elizabeth bore six of her nine children in Champaign-Urbana. They settled in the South Side school neighborhood in the 600 blocks of Prospect and then Highland Avenue. She resided in the Highland Avenue home for over half a century surrounded by neighbors whom she cherished.

Tragedy struck again when her young husband at age 40 underwent one of the first artificial heart valve replacements at the Mayo Clinic. Elizabeth lived with the dread of her husband’s five-year life expectancy but they were determined to make those years productive. In 1970, Max was awarded a one-year Guggenheim Fellowship to study British early education. The family moved to Bristol, England. In January, while still living in England, Max died at age 45 leaving Elizabeth as the sole parent. Her youngest child was only seven.

Elizabeth stayed in Bristol for an additional eight months and was undaunted by the challenges ahead when she and her children returned to Champaign. She had always handled the family finances and all home repairs. She was the only woman we knew who owned a Craftsman electric drill in a metal case. She was a feminist before it was a term. One evening at a cocktail party, she complained to the owner of a local business that nobody hires women her age. He offered her a job on the spot. For the next 20 years, she worked as a typesetter and paginater for Superior Printing in Champaign. She specialized in cookbooks and major publishing houses often requested that Elizabeth work on their books. Since she was not authorized to provide editing corrections to the publisher, she regularly rushed home during her lunch hour to place long-distance calls to provide always-welcomed corrections.

In retirement, Elizabeth found her passion for travel. Using a daughter’s airline privileges, she traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, returning more than three dozen times. She went as a tourist, collecting beads and artifacts, and returned home as a businesswoman. She helped numerous artisans build their trade by placing large orders for custom-designed jewelry. On her trips to Africa, her suitcases were crammed full of used tennis balls, school supplies, and small toys which she gave as gifts. For many years her sales of African jewelry at the Lincoln Square Farmers’ Market helped finance her return trips.

There are numerous examples of the sacrifices Elizabeth made for her children. One afternoon she dropped her young teen son off at a Bruce Lee R-rated movie. She watched to make sure he would be admitted, but when told she would have to accompany him, she agreed so that he wouldn’t be disappointed. At the conclusion of the first film, she would learn it was a double feature. She sat through the second movie without complaint.

She was a master at finding clever solutions so when a son came home from kindergarten and said he needed to bring a gun to school, she sat him down for a lesson in conflict resolution. It became evident that this was an assignment. The boys were to bring a toy gun for show and tell on Wednesday and the girls were to bring a doll on Thursday. Guns weren’t part of the family toy box so on Thursday her son arrived with a collection of newly-released Peanuts characters in doll-sized form. The class was fascinated.

Elizabeth was known for her quick wit and humor. When sharing a bed with a young granddaughter, the girl warned her that she might wet the bed. Grandma replied, “That’s okay, honey. Sometimes I do too.”

Once when Elizabeth and Max were dining at the former Urbana Lincoln hotel restaurant, the headwaiter was trying to be gracious and endearing. While talking with the professor and his wife, he opined, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” to which Elizabeth quickly added, “and behind her is his wife!”

People listening to Elizabeth’s adventure stories would ask her when she was going to write a book. She replied, “I have to wait for a few people to die so I can write the real book.”

When an annoyed teen granddaughter heard her grandmother ask the same question twice within several minutes, she asked, “Didn’t we just go over this?” Elizabeth instantly quipped, “Yes, we did. And some day you’ll be old, too.”
Activities were often confusing in her later years, but she was always happy. When receiving a phone call from a family member, she was overheard to say, “We’re having a wonderful time. We either just had a lovely breakfast or we’re getting ready to have a lovely breakfast.”

Several weeks before she died from Alzheimer’s disease, her daughter asked, “Do you know me?” Elizabeth replied, “Of course.” Pressed to be more specific, she offered, “You are the person sitting here.” She was correct.

Elizabeth skillfully created a household environment that was a hive of activity and a magnet to the friends of her children. There was always something exciting happening. Her children were encouraged to be creative and develop their natural talents without parental interference. Where other children had one box of building blocks, the Beberman children had duffle bags full. There were stacks of music books with an upstairs and downstairs piano, an unlimited supply of potholder loops and a loom or two for every child. There were enough Lincoln Logs to build a village and plenty of chairs and blankets to construct a make-believe train spanning several rooms. A full-sized outdoor climbing gym and playhouse took up valuable seating space in the living room. Who wouldn’t want to go down the slide in the living room? Older children were encouraged to bake or prepare meals as Elizabeth felt that cooking was simply a matter of following instructions. Rules were few but she would ask at critical times, “Are you being as nice as you can possibly be?”

She enjoyed a bargain. While living in Bristol, England, she found a barber who charged 50 pence to cut her hair which was a fraction of getting her hair cut at the beauty salon. It was difficult, however, to find such savings in the medical arena, but when noting the huge differential in charges between adult internists and pediatricians, she once asked for an appointment for herself at a pediatric practice. She was politely refused.

Elizabeth was a lifelong musician and encouraged the appreciation and performance of music as an instrumentalist, singer, or listener. Among her musical talents were perfect pitch and an uncanny ability to sing from memory endless verses of songs. As a fourteen-year old she performed in the chorus of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy Opera Company and carried her enjoyment of performance to Champaign where she performed in the local Gilbert and Sullivan group, the University of Illinois Oratorio Society and Illinois Opera. At home she had radios playing in most rooms and always tuned to WILL-FM 90.9 so that classical music played throughout the house. Her children thought everybody’s mother did that. During her last eight years, the classical music on the radio soothed her day and night.

Elizabeth was an exceptional person and an extraordinary mother. She was clever, insightful, and always gracious. In her final year of Alzheimer’s she might not have remembered who you were but she would enjoy your company immensely and captivate you with stories that often had some thread of truth. Frequently she would say to visitors, “I don’t know who you are, but if you’re here to visit me, you must be someone who loves me.”

In addition to her many natural children, Elizabeth’s welcoming generosity and inclusiveness meant that there were many “honorary Bebermans.” If you are still reading this, you are probably one of them.

The Beberman family is grateful to the compassionate staff at Willowbrook Memory Care of Savoy who honored Elizabeth as their Goodwill Ambassador and loved her as their own.

Here’s wishing Elizabeth Forrer Chapman Beberman what she always wished for others: a thousand good lucks.

Memorials may be made in support of WILL-FM Classical Music radio or to the University High School Max Beberman Fund—both through the University of Illinois Foundation.

Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home, 201 N. Elm, Champaign, conducted a private burial service at Woodlawn Cemetery, Urbana, on December 20, 2017.

Condolences to the family may be offered online at www.HeathandVaughn.com.



Greg and I send to all the Bebermans, a fellow Clark Park neighborhood family, our deepest  condolences. Your mom was extraordinary and raised a fine family! 
Carol Helen Stanek 
(Formerly Stuff)


I am truly saddened to hear of your Mom’s passing.  I had only met her once in my adult life, at her sister Virginia Ketchum’s funeral, and thought, “Oh my, she looks just like my Mom”!

Later in life I finally got to meet my cousin Ruthie Beberman and learned just how close the sisters were. After reading my “Aunt Woo Woo” obituary, which by the way, was the LONGEST I have ever read in my life - but, thankfully so.  I cannot begin to tell you how much joy it has brought me to learn more about her - she was FABULOUS!  I would like to know who the skillful writer’s name is if I may inquire. 

Blessings to you and yours this Holiday season,

Philip Martin Ketchum
Wichita, KS


Dear James and Sarah,

 I have fond childhood memories of spending time with you at your home.  Your mother was a delight.

 My condolences on your loss.


 Ann Spence


To the vast Beberman Family and extended family,

As an “honorary Beberman” (most likely one of the youngest) I can say in earnest and with much happiness that I have fond memories of growing up as a part of the honorary Beberman family. Elizabeth always made everyone feel welcome and comfortable in the Beberman home. She was a creative and scholarly influence and made me personally feel like I was a unique and intelligent person, capable of strength and independence.

 She is a one of a kind special person!

I have not seen Elizabeth for several years now, and I was deeply saddened when I heard of this loss.

I will always have wonderful memories of my childhood and Elizabeth will always be a part of that!

Her children and grandchildren carry on her legacy!

For the Beberman family, my heart and love go out to each of you! You were my second family for many years and you will always have a special place in my heart!!

Juliana (Brown) Maguire


My heartfelt condolences to you all and congrats on penning the best obit a mother ever had—directed wisely at the Xmas crowd that would see it and knew all the characters!

The “if you are still reading this” line cracks me up! I sent copies to Noel Salinger & Joe Martin. My love goes out to all of you—especially you Alice. All the best in the new year…hang on tight!

Peter Bodnar III


I, too, am an honorary Beberman, having spent many years with John as my best friend, starting on Armory St. in 1957 (I think.) I remember Elizabeth with much fondness and appreciate all that she did in her life. I think I last saw her over 30 years ago, but it seems like yesterday.

Jed Goldstein
Denver, CO 80212