In Memory of Lee Elgee

Lee Elgee

Lee Elgee 1926–2016

By Neil Elgee

My wife Lee died on March 24 from a long-standing recurrent cardiac rhythm disorder that suddenly became lethal. In retrospect, it was part of growing old gracefully.

She had been a key part of the EBF from its start in 1993, providing support, guidance and encouragement in countless ways. It was Lee’s cheerful voice that greeted many on their first calls to the EBF after discovering Becker. She helped build our community, hosted, fed, provided sage advice, and much more. She is of course already greatly missed.

Despite all she did for the EBF, Lee did not take to Becker right away as I did, starting in 1976. She just didn’t see the appeal. It wasn’t until 17 years later, shortly after I founded the EBF, that Sheldon Solomon’s first Seattle lecture brought Becker to life for Lee. Here’s how it happened:
A close and usually wise old medical school friend with whom I had practiced medicine for decades told me, against his better judgment (like many, he thought my Becker interest was nuts), that he had seen a little note in the New York Times about research on Becker’s synthesis.

Ironically, his tidbit led to the blossoming of the EBF. It was of course about Terror Management Theory and the one and only Sheldon Solomon.

Sheldon’s first of many EBF talks in Seattle was momentous in many ways, but especially for us because as a result, Lee “got it!” She had loyally read Denial and listened endlessly and patiently to me, but it was Sheldon who proved the right messenger for her. His ability to open the curious mind to our existential reality with simplicity and good humor is uniquely captivating. We now have Sheldon’s prose voice captured to a considerable extent in The Worm at the Core: The Role of Death in Life. Sheldon’s friend Lee would recommend it.


The EBF wants to thank those who have already generously donated in Lee’s memory. A memorial service was held at Seattle First Baptist Church on April 16th, with a number of EBF community members present. We invite all to celebrate Lee’s life and contributions to this community. Donations may be sent to:
The Ernest Becker Foundation 2606 2nd Ave. #335 Seattle, WA 98121.