Elizabeth Hubbard, 76, dancer and beloved gardener

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Elizabeth Hubbard.

BY K WEBSTER  | Elizabeth Hubbard, a dancer, teacher and member of the M’finda Kalunga Garden, died on March 13 at her Lower East Side home. She was 76.

Elizabeth Ann Thompson was born in Harlem. She taught dance at Dance Theater of Harlem and was the dance mistress at Ballet Hispanico. She joined the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall — a pioneer woman of color in a predominantly white dance corps. She later shared her passion for dance as a teacher of young ballerinas at the Marie Wildey School of Dance in East Orange, N.J.

Elizabeth co-founded the Roosevelt Park Community Coalition, a volunteer organization that was created during the Lower East Side’s tumultuous 1980s. The coalition’s work helped make Sara Roosevelt Park safe for the neighborhood to use. She later became the co-chairperson of M’Finda Kalunga Garden — which is located in S.D.R. Park — leading the group’s work in the community until the late ’90s.

Elizabeth was honored as part of the M’Finda Kalunga Garden’s Juneteenth celebration for her years of service to the community. At the event, she gave a moving reading of a Maya Angelou poem.

She always preferred to be in the background. As garden members were searching through photos, they had to hunt to find one where she wasn’t off to the side. In so many of the photos, she would be found, silently, lovingly (but fiercely) supporting someone’s efforts — her smile large. In one photo Elizabeth beams while a Marte Valle schoolgirl tells about her school’s mosaic sculptures in the garden. In another, she is deftly helping a frightened boy learn how to pet her beloved dog, Roo.

Her fellow gardeners relied on her for good judgment, unshakable integrity, generosity and grit. If someone ever had a difficult decision to make, Elizabeth’s offhand but razor sharp intellect would keep him or her on the right path.

She was funny, discreet, frank and sensitive. She was genuine and genuinely kind. As one gardener put it, “She asked you how you were — then waited for the answer.” She brought an elegance to everything she did.

As one gardener said, “Many of us wish we could have seen her dance — we would have loved to see how she worked that beautiful fire and grit into moving that tiny, graceful frame.”

She leaves her devoted husband, Joe Hubbard. Their lifelong love affair began upon their first meeting. Garden members will honor her at a memorial in the spring, in the garden.

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3 Responses to Elizabeth Hubbard, 76, dancer and beloved gardener

  1. Margot Mink Colbert

    As a friend and classmate of Betty's at Juilliard and later in the Village I am saddened to discover her passing through my perusal of the Juilliard Newsletter. Although we had not been in touch recently I miss her now, knowing I cannot pick up the phone and find her at the other end. Condolences to Joe who was also my friend in those years ago in the East Village.

  2. I.too.had gotten out of touch with my NY friends, but think of Bett Anne and Alan often. I will miss her even though I did not go to NYC in recent years. I remember when she came to Virginia to coach my students, and after I put one young dancer through her paces too many times, Betty Anne remardked "Mary, she is only ten. It isn't going to get any better." That comment tempured my expectations, and the young dancers thrived. My attention was drawn to this announcement by my neice, Susan, who met Betty Anne when Sue was a little thing. We had tea in a tearoom and Sue put cream and lemon in her tea; we watched as she bravely drank the whole cup. Sue corresponded with Betty Anne for years, and drew my attention to this article and her passing. Mary Marshall

  3. As a friend and classmate of Betty's at Juilliard and later in the Village I am saddened to discover her passing through my perusal of the Juilliard Newsletter. Although we had not been in touch recently I miss her now, knowing I cannot pick up the phone and find her at the other end. Condolences to Joe who was also my friend in those years ago in the East Village.
    http://top-univercity.com/ AHA

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