Elizabeth (Hmeeza ) Quimby, 100, died Sunday, February 27, 2022 at Woodlawn Center Healthcare in Newport, NH after a short period of declining health. She lived with her daughter and son-in-law (Cathy and Jim Lacombe) for several years following her husband Ed’s death, until her health made life at Woodlawn her best option. The family is very thankful to the staff of Woodlawn, who treated her with great respect and loving care. A spirited, musical celebration was organized at Woodlawn, for Elizabeth’s 100th birthday.
June of 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France during the Second World War. Many celebrations recognized the women who supported the military back home, who were immortalized by the iconic wartime “Rosie The Riveter” Norman Rockwell painting and recruitment posters. One such woman was Elizabeth Quimby (Elizabeth Hmeeza at the time). Shortly after America’s entry into the global conflict, 20-year old Elizabeth traveled from her native Claremont, NH to central Connecticut. U.S. ball bearing manufacturing was centered in Connecticut then, and the American war machine could not – quite literally – roll without it.
Elizabeth settled into an apartment in Meriden, CT, which she shared with a couple of other “girls”, and went to work for New Departure Bearings, a division of General Motors. New Departure had two plants, one in Bristol, CT and the other in Meriden. Elizabeth worked at the latter, taking a public bus to and from work each day, and putting in many long hours.
During the war, New Departure was the world’s largest manufacturer of precision ball bearings, and Elizabeth labored in a clean room environment, assembling some of New Departure’s smallest bearings. Elizabeth was very careful in her work, as she knew these bearings were destined for sensitive military aircraft instrumentation, which young American airmen would depend upon for their lives. The numerous precision bearings used in the famous Norden Bombsight, installed on all of America’s long-range bombers, were manufactured by New Departure. New Departure bearings were utilized throughout the Boeing B-29 Bomber, the most expensive weapon system developed during the war.
Elizabeth periodically received extended breaks from work that created opportunities for fondly remembered trips with girlfriends to New York City and Asbury Park, N.J. One significant memory for Elizabeth during her time at New Departure was a morale-boosting visit to her plant by the famous comedian Jimmy Durante. While he was chatting with Elizabeth and her co-workers, she clearly remembers Durante taking note of an individual with a proboscis of significant size, and saying with his trademark style: “I can’t believe it! Someone with a schnozzola as big as mine!”
Elizabeth missed her family back in Claremont, and returned home shortly before the end of the war. Elizabeth would eventually take the skills she learned at New Departure to Split Ball Bearing Manufacturing in Lebanon, NH, where she worked from 1958 to 1993.
Elizabeth baked cakes, pies and Russian sweet bread, cherished by all family members, especially around the holidays. She loved scouring books on antiques and collectibles, and never passed a yard sale without stopping. She later sold hundreds of items on ebay.
She loved fishing with her husband Ed, walking the many rivers and brooks in her beloved New Hampshire, and ice fishing on lakes in winter. Elizabeth enjoyed regular trips to Mohegan Sun and Las Vegas casinos, including one special Thanksgiving dinner with Cathy, Jim and grandson John, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.
Elizabeth travelled frequently, and spent several winters in Florida and the Bahamas with her daughter Cathy and family. She fondly recalled an RV road trip to the Orlando area with Ed, his sister Virginia and her husband Norman. Elizabeth loved sightseeing, exploring thrift shops and walking the beach.
Elizabeth was active, boisterous, and, having grown up during the Depression, frugal to a fault. Family was Elizabeth’s main focus in life and she delighted in family gatherings, where she and her husband Ed prepared elaborate meals and desserts.
She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Elizabeth is survived by her daughter Cathy (McCusker) Lacombe and husband Jim, son George McCusker III, Cathy’s son John Lacombe, his wife Carly, George’s daughter Becky Dashner , George’s son Geobe McCusker and great grandchildren CC, Cole and Lydia. She was predeceased by her husband Ed, and her sister Olga (Hmeeza) and sister Mary (Hmeeza.) Elizabeth was born in Claremont, NH November 27, 1921 to parents Peter and Fedosia (Sadie) Hmeeza.
Elizabeth was recently connected, via the wonders of the internet, with Ukranian descendants of her Uncle Luca, whom she had never met. She marveled at the family resemblance in photographs, and was excited to learn many of them are talented musicians.
There will be a private family service and a Celebration of Life at Eastman, NH in early summer. The family suggests donations be made to aid Ukranians in the fight to keep their country free.