Rebecca Summerhays, cherished partner, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend, died just before dawn on April 28, 2022, of ovarian cancer. She was 47.
Rebecca grew up in the dry mountains of the West but flourished in the rich soil of New England. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah and a doctorate in Victorian literature from Brown University. She cultivated talents for music, crafting, and writing, among countless others—poignantly fitting for a scholar of literature that celebrated and gave voice to heroines’ inner lives.
Rebecca dedicated her career as a teacher and professor to helping young people—especially young women—realize their potential and self-worth. She cared especially for her students and colleagues at Wellesley College, where she found renewed purpose and energy in teaching writing courses on “craftivism” and embodiment and in labor organizing on behalf of her fellow nontenure faculty members. From her early days in Mormon feminism to her work with survivors of domestic abuse to her efforts at Wellesley, her advocacy for women’s value and equality was a constant throughout her adulthood.
Rebecca participated actively in the Iyengar yoga community in the Boston area. The fellowship she felt there with friends and mentors animated the last decade and a half of her life.
Rebecca’s life and spirit were filled with adventure. She practiced yoga in India, descended into the Amazon and scaled the Andes in Peru, solo trekked the Camino de Santiago across Spain, walked the Coast-to-Coast trail in England, mushed dogsleds in Québec, and snorkeled the vibrant reefs of St. John and Hawaii. She was always ready for an expedition and tenaciously saw each journey through to its end.
Rebecca loved indulgences that bestowed cheer, comfort, or beauty. She brought elegance, color, and love to her friends’ and family’s lives through the many gorgeous handmade quilts, knitwear, and crafts she gifted through the years.
Rebecca was deeply good and uncommonly kind. She was thoughtful and wise, with just the right words—or swears—for any occasion. She was gracious, even in the face of illness, ill use, sorrow, and pain. To those who knew her, she will ever be a model of grace and integrity.
Rebecca was preceded in death by her grandparents and her mother, Constance. She is survived and will be forever remembered by her partner, Tad; her siblings, Emily, Ben, and Jake; her father, Daniel; many nieces, nephews, and in-laws; and friends too numerous to name. A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held at a later date. For those who wish to memorialize Rebecca, donations may be made in her name to Health Care Without Walls (https://hcww.wpengine.com/giving/make-donation).
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