Elizabeth “Beth” Shaw
Elizabeth “Beth” Shaw died peacefully in her sleep in Groton on June 30, 2023 at age 81. Beth was the daughter of the late Clifford and Rauha “Betty” Needham, and the sister of the late Robert “Bert” Needham.
Beth Shaw loved people. Most certainly, she loved her husband of 56 years Robert “Bob” Shaw, her daughters: Jordana, Rebecca and Jessica, their spouses, and her six grandchildren.
But she loved in greater circles, too.
Her love for her large family prompted her to host several Needham family reunions, bringing her dozens of aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins together for home-cooked parties.
In fact, to know Beth Shaw was to be fed by her, most likely with company casserole, turkey tetrazzini, or cranberry sour cream coffee cake, which she made for friends and neighbors in times of joy or sorrow. (She also had a fierce sweet tooth, making sure to always have sweets whenever anyone visited her.) She was fluent in the love-language of food.
Once she moved to Westford in 1972, she fell in love with that community, quickly joining the League of Women Voters where she made life-long friends. As President of the LWV, she and Ellen Harde created a slideshow for Westford’s 250th anniversary in 1979, which was later turned into the book Images of America: Westford. She helped bring the Westford Museum into existence, and later served a term as president of the Westford Historical Society.
Beth’s compassion for others and a willingness to put others before herself can be seen in her activism, such as being a group leader, hotline worker, and later president of Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). These values were at the heart of her career working for 20 years as a professor of nursing at Fitchburg State College, where she was also known for her great outfits. (She said that would ensure her students had a reason to look at her; it may also be true that she simply had a love of clothes.) She was proud every time she was nursed by a former student, be it in a hospital, or at a COVID booster clinic.
While juggling a career and family life, she also embarked upon a doctorate in education. A master-procrastinator as well as a busy person, Beth finally graduated at age 61 from UMass Lowell with a doctorate in education, 16 years after taking her first course.
Beth loved the world at large. As a Skidmore College nursing graduate, she traveled across Europe to Israel. She and Bob traveled with the girls to visit Jordana when she studied in Paris; they flew to Stanford for Rebecca’s graduation, and they traveled extensively to see Jessica’s Cornell Track meets, from California to England and all up and down the East Coast. In their later years, they visited such countries as Kenya and her ancestral Finland.
Being afflicted with Alzheimer’s for the last decade or more of her life caused her gradual withdrawal from the communities she held so dear. “Bethikins” was cared for with much love and affection by the entire RiverCourt community since she moved in October 2020. Most of all, she was loved by Bob, her husband of 56 years, who every day at RiverCourt put two cookies in his pocket and visited his Bethikins, feeding her sweet-tooth and sharing in a communion, using her language of love.
Beth Shaw’s Memorial Service was held July 7, 2023 at First Parish Church, 48 Main Street, Westford
In lieu of flowers please consider donations to charities near and dear to her heart:
• Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation: https://www.alzdiscovery.org/
• Greater Boston PFLAG: https://www.gbpflag.org/
• Or bake your own favorite coffee cake for someone who needs a lift!
Arrangements under the care of Badger Funeral Home, 45 School Street, Groton, MA 01450 (978)-486-3709, www.badgerfuneral.com.