Lifelong Kent resident Elizabeth Geldhof died peacefully Wednesday morning, January 9, with her children close by. Smiling almost to the very end, she brought love and happiness to her extended family and her countless friends. Elizabeth Kate White was born May 29, 1920, the third of four children of Stephen and Mary Longcoy White.
She grew up in the family home on Prospect Street. Liz graduated with an education degree from Kent State University. She was crowned Miss Kent State. She served Kent State for many years through the alumni association, and she and her family have avidly followed Kent State sports for decades.
When World War II broke out, she married her college sweetheart Hugh A. Brown, who was already in the U.S. Army. During the war years, she lived for a time with his mother in Lake Milton, and also taught in Austintown. The Browns lived briefly in Carmel, California. After the war, Captain Brown returned to Ohio, where he and his brother, Braden, launched an excavating company. Liz and Hugh Brown had three baby-boomer children: Judy (Rees) and Peter and Stephen Brown.
In the early 1950s, Hugh started a blacktopping company in Kent, Brown Brothers Grading and Asphalt, which paved a lot of driveways and parking lots, and a few Kent Streets during the postwar housing boom.
Liz and Hugh were active members of Twin Lakes Country Club (of which her father was one of the founders) and the Kent United Church of Christ. The family moved to Twin Lakes in 1960.
Liz was no stranger to death. Her elder brother Stephen died in a P-38 plane crash in Europe during the war, and her younger brother Bob died in a car crash in the mid-1950s. Hugh Brown died Jan. 2, 1963, and for 10 years Liz was a single parent, shepherding her children through high school and college while teaching in the Kent Public Schools.
A new chapter in her life began when she married Kent businessman and civic leader Alex Geldhof in January 1973. They played lots of couples golf at Twin Lakes and traveled widely while being heavily engaged in Kent institutions. In the late 1970s, Liz and Alex Geldhof started taking parts of winters on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and built up a wonderful group of new friends after they bought a place in Bonita Springs and spent more and more of the winter there.
Liz's final chapter began in August 1998 when surgery to repair a brain aneurysm left her frailer and struggling with speech aphasia. Despite her challenge in finding the right nouns and pronouns, her outgoing good cheer and love of people allowed her to make still more friends. Liz and Alex lived a full social life until age prompted them to resettle in assisted living at Kent Ridge. On her 90th birthday, she delighted to photos and reminiscences of her family. Alex Geldhof died last January.
Elizabeth Geldhof is survived by daughter, Judy (John) Rees and son, Steve, both of Kent, and son, Peter (Maria Leonhauser) of Ann Arbor, Michigan; seven grandchildren: Brian Rees, Jill Hutchison, and Nick, Hugh, Ben, Greg and Doug Brown; six great-grandchildren; and three stepchildren, Adam (Jennifer) Geldhof, Jay (Megan) Geldhof and Lisa (John) Lazarczyk.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 12, at the Kent United Church, preceded by visiting hours with the family at 10:30.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Kent United Church of Christ (1400 E. Main St., Kent, OH, 44240) or Harbor Light Hospice (25 S. Main St., suite 7, Monroe Falls, OH, 44262).