Friday, December 26, 2014

Fay Libet: 100 years young


Fay Libet, who turned 100 years old on Feb. 24, shows a picture of her husband Benjamin, who died in 2007; he was 91. She's wearing head phones to enhance her hearing. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A3 | July 31, 2014 |

On Feb. 24, 1914, Fay Evans was born in Chicago. Four months later, Europe — and later the world — was thrown into chaos by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the advent of a worldwide war.

And this year World War I and Fay — who now sports the last name of Libet — are celebrating 100-year anniversaries.

Fay was born to a family of Eastern European Jews in a Jewish neighborhood of Chicago. She was immersed in Jewish culture, and entered first grade speaking only one language — Yiddish.

She took quickly to school, especially when it came to reading.

“Other kids went off and played hockey or something else,” Libet said of her childhood. “But I had to have a book in my hands.”

Her parents were very supportive of her education, which was unusual for the times, especially for a poor family like hers. Libet excelled in school, and graduated from high school with a multitude of options. One such option was teaching school, which she enrolled in at first, but found not quite her taste.

“I went to a school for teachers,” Libet said. “But it was too much like high school… I didn’t like it.”

She soon left teaching school and began attending the University of Chicago. It was there that she met Benjamin Libet, who earned his doctorate from the university in 1939 at the age of 23, and later became a prominent neuroscientist. Fay graduated from Chicago a year later, and by 1946, the two were married.

After a couple of stops in Albany, N.Y., and Philadelphia, Benjamin became a professor of physiology at UC San Francisco. The couple moved to Burlingame, in the Bay Area, and it was there that the Libets raised their four children; Julian, Ralph, Moreen and Gayla.

While in Burlingame, Fay found a way to combine her passions — music and teaching. Music had always been a big part of her life, dating back to when her father bought her a piano while living in Chicago, an exorbitant purchase for her relatively poor family.

“My father brought home a piano,” Libet said. “He’d been saving for months in order to buy it. … He told me, ‘I spent a lot of money on this, so you’d better play it every day.’ ”

The Libets relocated for a final time with the turn of the millennium, as they found a house in Davis in 2000. The couple lived there for seven years, until 2007, when Benjamin died at the age of 91. Fay still lives in Davis by herself, next door to her son, Ralph, a physician.

Much has changed in the world since Fay entered it. In 1914, the Ottoman Empire ruled Turkey and the area around it, Franz Ferdinand was an archduke, Woodrow Wilson was the president, and the Chicago Cubs were five years into their World Series drought. In the years spanning from then to now, two world wars were waged, man set foot on the moon, the Soviet Union rose and fell, and the Internet became a staple of modern life.

Fay Libet has been around for every one of those monumental events.





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Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

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Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

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