Nora Beate Sigerist Beeson, editor, author, translator, conservationist and musician, died June 17, 2019, at age 97 in New York City, of Alzheimer’s disease.
She was born Feb. 23, 1922, in Zürich, Switzerland, daughter of the medical historian and social visionary Henry E. Sigerist, an early champion of healthcare for all. Wife of composer Jack H. Beeson, she was the mother of Christopher Sigerist Beeson and Miranda Beeson. Her husband, son and sister, Erica Sigerist Campanella, predeceased her.
Nora arrived with her family in Baltimore from Leipzig, Germany in 1932, where she entered school not knowing a word of English. She mastered the language in a matter of months, foreshadowing her mastery of French, Italian, Russian and a smattering of Church Slavonic (in addition to her native German and Swiss German).
Ever independent, she opted not to return to Switzerland with her family following World War II, continuing her violin studies at Eastman School of Music while attending the University of Rochester. It was here she met the ever dapper Jack Beeson who was studying composition at Eastman and would become her husband of 63 years.
At the invitation of the beloved Cutchogue/New York composer Douglas Moore, Columbia University captured their attention. Jack Beeson taught in the music department, while she obtained an M.A. in Russian, and Ph.D. in Slavic literature and languages. The Beesons were known to fly between classes on campus, swapping off the strollers containing their two small children.
Post-Ph.D., Nora coursed through an illustrious career as a lecturer, writer, translator and editor — most happily, as a senior editor at Harry N. Abrams. In 1972 she was the author and general editor of the first Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
She and her family had a home on Shelter Island for a quarter of a century, where she helped found the local chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Nora was instrumental in saving one-third of Shelter Island from commercial development. Mashomack Preserve remains one of her proudest personal achievements.
Nora was also instrumental in founding Bloomingdale School of Music in New York City which provides music education to children in grades K through 12.
There will be no service. Play a piece of music you love in her memory.
Donations in her memory may be made to Bloomingdale School of Music, 323 West 108 St., New York, NY 10025 for “Stay Tuned,” which tunes and maintains the pianos of Jack Beeson, Douglas Moore and 15 other studio pianos played by more than 250 young pianists every week. www.bsmny.org.
This is a paid notice.