Elizabeth I. Zimmerli died on January 19, at the age of 83, after a brief battle with glioblastoma brain cancer. She had lived in Falmouth for the last 30 years, where she spent most of her time enjoying the outdoors.
From June to November, Ms. Zimmerli started her day by checking the wind in Buzzards Bay. If the wind was right she would likely go sailing in her H12. She also took part in kayaking, dog walking and cleaning local trails—including weeding poison ivy from the paths.
She grew up with her older sister, Margi, and twin sister, Jane, in Port Washington, Long Island, and in those waters learned to sail with her father on a small boat called a Wood Pussy. She attended Pennsylvania State University, where she was president of women’s recreation and a member of Delta Gamma sorority, graduating in 1961.
From there, she moved to New York, and worked as a computer programmer for Metropolitan Life and Honeywell.
She spent much of her career working at an all-women company, Computations, Inc., specifically founded in 1958 to offer female programmers a place to work when they started a family. At that time in Massachusetts, pregnant women employed by a public company were not permitted to continue working when they started to show. This small company filled an important niche. She remained with Computations, also known as “the pregnant programmers,” for more than 20 years, and the flexibility of this company allowed her to both have a career and time to spend with her family.
She married Bruce E. Zimmerli in 1965, and they would live in Manhattan, Pleasantville, New York and Harvard, before finally settling in Falmouth. When they moved to Harvard, the couple bought a former horse farm, called Happy Valley Farm, and despite her initial lack of horse knowledge she embraced the new endeavor by welcoming one pony, which led to 12 years of multiple horses at the farm.
Upon retiring to Falmouth, Ms. Zimmerli volunteered with numerous local organizations. Never one to hire out a home task she could complete on her own, she became a seasoned house painter. She seized the possibility of helping others with this skill and volunteered her services in town to anyone who wanted a room painted, donating the money to Habitat for Humanity.
An avid reader, she wanted share that passion with others and found the opportunity within the Falmouth Public Schools. She became a mentor to an elementary student with whom she stayed connected for years to follow.
Early in her retirement, Ms. Zimmerli was head of outreach for the First Congregational Church of Falmouth, which provided transportation and overnight shelter for women who were homeless. Because overnight supervision was necessary, she stayed with them, sleeping on the floor in the church basement. She also was a member of the Falmouth Commission on Disabilities for several years.
Not wanting to sail alone, she invited many people to sail with her, including her six grandchildren, and—through the Waterlilies program at Quissett Yacht Club—spent the last two decades teaching women to sail.
In addition for her prowess as a skipper, Ms. Zimmerli was accomplished at making soup.
Besides her husband of 57 years, she leaves her daughters and their husbands, Annie Zimmerli-Haskel and Jim Haskel of Westport, Connecticut, and Sally Zimmerli and Tim Seston of Concord; six grandchildren; and other family.
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