Rebecca Jane Gilford, née Kennedy, passed away in her sleep in the early hours of Friday, January 15, 2021 in Friday Harbor, Washington. Rebecca was born on January 29, 1925 in Rochester, NY, daughter of Dr. Robert Phelps Kennedy and Rebecca Showalter Kennedy and the third of six children.
Rebecca, who went by “Becky,” attended and graduated from The Harley School in Rochester in 1943. During World War II, while her father was deployed and her mother worked as a nurse, Becky interrupted her university studies to care for her three younger siblings. In 1947 she married Paul Schmidt. The family then moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1951. A woman of wide ranging talents, Becky skillfully and creatively met the needs of her family, which grew to include four young children: Lawrence, Eric, Karl, and Ileene.
A lover of the arts, Becky always had a particular passion for dance. In Oberlin, she found time to take classes in modern dance and aid in the dance department. A dream came true in 1962 when she was invited to attend a workshop with the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City.
In 1965 Becky married Saul R. Gilford, a successful entrepreneur and widower with four children, and they had a daughter, Hilary. A devastating tragedy struck in 1969 when Becky’s third son, Karl, died of brain cancer. In 1976, having decided to finish her undergraduate degree, she successfully earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Oberlin College. She was fifty-one. In 1976 Becky and her daughter moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington in order to be closer to her son, Eric.
In 1985, Becky welcomed her first grandson, Nathan, who was followed by, Kassandra (1988), Lina (1993), and Giuseppa (2005). Never faint of heart, in 2010 at the age of 85, Becky embarked on an adventure, returning to the east coast to be near her daughter and her granddaughter, Giuseppa, in New York City. As a resident New York City, she had many adventures and to her surprise and delight, fell in love. Becky returned to Washington in 2014, to be closer to her son, Eric, and his family. In 2017, Becky welcomed her first great-grandchild, Inyo, son of her granddaughter Kassandra and husband, Zak, who live in Edinburgh, Scotland. She moved to San Juan Island in 2019 where she enjoyed trips to Friday Harbor and Cape San Juan.
Always cheerful, she was greatly loved by the residents and staff of the Village at The Harbour, where she lived for her last two years. The family appreciates the wonderful care she received.
Becky is survived by her siblings, Bruce Kennedy, Margaret Kennedy, and Mary Cochran; by her children, Lawrence (Monika), Eric (Denise), Ileene, and Hilary (Cono), as well as her grandchildren, Nathan, Kassandra, Lina and Giuseppa, and her great-grandson, Inyo. Becky will be greatly missed!