McCabe, 101, dies in Moose
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: June 23, 2012
Jackson Hole News&Guide Co-publisher Elizabeth McCabe, who lived a life driven by a love of friends, family, work and the valley she cherished, died Friday evening. She was 101.
McCabe, who suffered regular bouts with pneumonia in the last year of her life, held hands with her daughter, Ann Ramsay, when she died at her home in Moose, family and friends said. Her passing was peaceful.
Gov. Matt Mead on Friday said McCabe’s life set a standard for even him. His grandparents, Martha and U.S. Sen. Cliff Hansen, were close to McCabe.
“Elizabeth McCabe was a dear friend to my grandparents and to our entire family,” Mead said. “She is an inspiration to me.
“I remarked last year when she turned 100 that she taught us that a life of engagement and activity rewards the spirit, and a spirit rewarded extends one’s body. That is a great example for us all to emulate.”
Into the last weeks of her life, McCabe continued to take photographs for the cover of the News&Guide’s Valley section, something she started with the Jackson Hole Guide in the 1970s. She covered high school graduations, the Teton County Fair, 31 years of the Bybee family celebrating Father’s Day and won Wyoming Press Association awards for her photographs. She loved to capture wildlife and felt blessed last fall when a grizzly family came to her property for a long photo shoot.
McCabe’s friendships were deep and enduring. She reached across generations and social strata to find people she enjoyed. And when she found them, she kept them — beckoning friends to her Circle EW Ranch in Moose, Little Cayman in the Caribbean and guide Tom Montgomery’s skiff.
Born premature in 1911, she battled polio early in her life and spinal stenosis late. The will within her small body pressed her to keep taking photos, climb uncomfortably in and out of fishing boats and stay awake late at loud dinner parties.
“I came into the party early and decided to stay late,” McCabe told her daughter, Carol Rose, in recent months.
Elizabeth Joan Wiel was born March 20, 1911, in San Francisco, the daughter of Eli and Elsa Wiel. She spent the first months of her life in an incubator.
She attended Castilleja School in California for elementary and secondary education and graduated in 1929, the year the stock market crashed.
McCabe entered Stanford University, but she contracted polio at age 19. McCabe had polio for a month. She once said the disease settled in her throat, which may have led to her having voice and throat troubles later in life.
She eventually left Stanford.
McCabe acquired a Kodak Brownie camera in the 1930s, starting a lifelong love of photography. She did her own darkroom work and took pictures of friends and their children, selling them prints.
She met Malcolm Ramsay through friends in 1936, and the couple married two years later.
The pair lived in San Francisco for a few years. After Elizabeth Joan Ramsay was born in 1940, pushing a stroller up the streets of the city wasn’t so appealing. The family moved to Atherton.
Carol Alison Ramsay was born in 1941, Anne Milne Ramsay in 1944 and Barrie Ramsay in 1945. McCabe lived to become a grandmother and great-grandmother.
Avid anglers, McCabe’s parents first came to Jackson Hole in the 1920s, and they bought property in Moose in the 1930s.
McCabe embraced Snake River fishing in 1938. She and her husband would come for a month in the fall. Sometimes she’d travel to Jackson in early April when the fishing season opened.
She fished on horseback, and walked or drove to holes on the Snake. Anglers used bamboo fly rods then and flies from Bob Carmichael, who owned the Moose tackle shop.
McCabe met Fred McCabe in 1968, and the couple married soon after. Both had to get a divorce to marry.
Fred McCabe had recently purchased the Jackson Hole Guide. Fred put Liz on the newspaper’s staff as a photographer. Her first project was high school graduation. In 2011, she continued the tradition, again offering her Generations of Graduates photos. Her work thrived after the Jackson Hole Guide and Jackson Hole News merged in 2002.
She was not able to continue the tradition this spring.
Stepchildren Al and Julie Renneisen helped McCabe late in her life, serving as her Jackson Hole and travel companions.
McCabe felt a deep affinity for Jackson Hole and the many friends she made here and in other places she loved. Her ability to bring together people of different persuasions and backgrounds in a beautiful place will endure as one of her lasting legacies.
“I will smile often thinking about her in the wilds of Wyoming with a camera or ... on her porch in Teton County, gathering people to her side,” Mead said Friday. “In these moments, she had a talent for showing those with opposing viewpoints all that they share in common.
“What a wonderful person.”
A full account of McCabe’s life will appear in the Wednesday edition of the Jackson Hole News&Guide.