For Ilse Lehiste

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From the Ohio State department's memorial page:

Ilse was born on January 31, 1922 in Tallinn, Estonia, but left Estonia as a refugee in 1944, fleeing the Soviet invasion of her homeland. She earned her first Ph.D., in Philology, from the University of Hamburg in 1948 and a second Ph.D., in Linguistics, from the University of Michigan in 1959. In 1963, Ilse joined the faculty at The Ohio State University. Ilse came to OSU from the University of Michigan, after receiving her Ph.D., and spending 1959-63 at the Communication Sciences Laboratory as Research Associate. At Ohio State, she divided her time between phonetics, historical linguistics, and administration, serving as Chair 1965-71, Acting Chair 1984-85, and again Chair 1985-87.  In fact, she was the Department's first Chair (1965-1971) when it was founded in 1965, after having spent two years in the Slavic Department. Professor Emeritus since 1987.

Ilse enjoyed a long and distinguished career.  She was the author, co-author or editor of 20 books, about 200 articles and over 100 reviews. Ilse was honored in many ways for her immense contributions to the field of linguistics. At The Ohio State University, she was awarded the title of Distinguished University Professor and received the University Distinguished Scholar Award, the university's highest recognition for scholarly achievement. She also held four honorary doctorates from Essex University, England (1977), the University of Lund, Sweden (1982), Tartu University, Estonia (1989), and The Ohio State University (1999). She was Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences since 1998, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1990, and Foreign Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (2008).

There's a lot more on the official front, including her year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (where she discovered that in California, some new plant or tree comes into bloom every week, so that she could have allergic reactions all year round!) And even more on the personal front, encompassing not only her fleeing as a refugee across several countries, but also, before this, the early death of her beloved brother (her only sibling) and their father and still later her nursing her mother through death in Columbus. (She earned her first Ph.D. while living in a refugee camp in Germany, and at first supported herself and her mother in the U.S. by playing the piano in a dance studio, among other things.)

Yesterday in Sunnyvale, I led the peninsula shapenote singers in a memorial song for her. Not one of my usual ones, but an extravagant, transcendant, oh-so-not Lutheran "shouting song", Hallelujah (#146 in the Sacred Harp) — Ilse came to singings when they were at my house in Columbus — where I could go all crazy on the chorus:

1 And let this feeble body fail,
And let it faint or die;
My soul shall quit this mournful vale,
And soar to worlds on high,

CHORUS: And I'll sing hallelujah,
And you'll sing hallelujah,
And we'll sing hallelujah,
When we arrive at home.

2 Shall join the disembodied saints,
And find its long-sought rest,
That only bliss for which it pants,
In my Redeemer's breast.

3 O what are all my suff'rings here,
If Lord, Thou count me meet
With that enraptured host t'appear,
And worship at Thy feet!

4 Give joy or grief, give ease or pain,
Take life or friends away,
But let me find them all again,
In that eternal day.

A fabulous Crossing Over song.


  1. D.O. said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    left Estonia as a refugee in 1944, fleeing the Soviet invasion of her homeland

    Without arguing with the obvious fact that USSR did occupy Estonia, it seems a bit strange to me to ascribe this event to 1944. Fighting Nazis can hardly be described as invasion.

  2. Mar Rojo said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    Hope a usage question is not out of place, Arnold.

    Is "nurse through death" an American expression?
    [(amz) I can't say — only that it's natural for me. And I've used it in describing my experiences with my two partners in life.]

    And is there an omitted preposition (to/unto) preceding "death"?
    [(amz) That would certainly be a possible variant for me, one that treats death as a point event rather than a process. In my variant, death is an alternative to dying.]

  3. K.O. said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    "Fighting Nazis can hardly be described as invasion."

    Although fighting Nazis may not itself have been an invasion, it served as a good excuse for one.

  4. Mar Rojo said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    D.O. The Soviets occupied Estonia before the war. Then came the Nazis, and later, 1944, the Soviets reoccupied Estonia.

  5. Mar Rojo said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

    Many thanks for the swift response, Arnold. I now see how you see it.

  6. Ann Burlingham said,

    February 28, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    I was thinking of Ilse not too long ago; so sorry to know she is no longer. She was an admirable woman. Sounds like an excellent song.

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