Elizabeth Jane Sweeney of Durham, North Carolina died on December 28, 2017 at the age of 99. She was the daughter of the late Lee and Hildreth Melcher. She was preceded in death by her husband of 25 years Thomas Cruse Sweeney, and her three brothers William, John and Chuck Melcher.
Elizabeth was born in 1918 and grew up in Wisconsin the youngest and only girl in her family. Life with three brothers contributed to her love of the outdoors, her adventuresome spirit and her willingness to challenge the prescribed roles of women of her era. She spent her youth breaking many of the rules for young ladies much to her mother’s chagrin and her friends’ sense of fun. She attended Stephens College and spent the war years working as a Rosie the Riveter. While in school in Chicago she met her future husband, a medical student at North Western. They married and moved to the college town of Beloit, Wisconsin where he became the college doctor and built a medical practice. They had four children in Beloit before the Korean War draft inducted Tom and moved the whole family to Buffalo, New York for two years. During those early years Elizabeth devoted her sense of fun, her creative spirit and her energies to raising four children and adding one more in New York. Her creative outlet was sewing for her children including years of Halloween costumes, matching dresses and school outfits. After the war, the whole family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where Tom specialized and established a practice in pathology. Two more children were born in Ohio which then included five girls and two boys. Elizabeth’s greatest joy and accomplishment was the raising of her children. Getting seven children dressed for school and church, cooking nightly delicious dinners, and keeping the household running while encouraging each child’s particular interest kept her very busy. Her greatest strength was loving all her children for their unique qualities.
After twenty five years of marriage, Elizabeth became a single mother and moved to Florida with the five children still living at home. These were challenging years both emotionally and financially but with determination and a great deal of creativity she managed to love and launch the remaining five children into their adult years. In the late eighties she moved to Athens, Georgia where she lived for fifteen years down the street from a daughter and her family. During those years she welcomed new additions to the family including her children’s spouses, thirteen grandchildren and five great grandchildren. She continued to sew for her family, wove baskets, painted and loved her little house and garden. She was a member of Athens First United Methodist church while living in Athens. When her health began to change she decided to move into a retirement center near three of her children in North Carolina where well into her nineties she added her sense of fun to all family gatherings. “The Sweeney Girls “ all reflect and cherish their mother’s resilient spirit and one of the great granddaughters was given the Sweeney name so she too could be one of “the Sweeney Girls”.
Survivors include daughters Sally Bryenton and her husband Don; Katie Smith and her husband Fred, Laura Shenkman and her husband Ed; Liz Shaver and her husband Dan, sons Adi Shrikantha and wife Nilima and Charles Sweeney and wife Kellie as well thirteen grandchildren and five great-grand children.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to The Forest of Duke retirement center.
A family gathering to celebrate her life will be held at a later time.