Elaine Amoruso

Date of Birth

January 26th, 1926

Date of Death

February 26th, 2019

Memorial Meeting

Berkeley Monthly Meeting


Elaine Jeanette Amoruso was born January 26, 1926, in Mount Vernon, New York to Dominick Amoruso and Henrietta Nardozzi. Her father was 17 when he came from Basilicata, Italy to America. The family name is Italian for "amorous" and with the second "o" changed to a "u" reflects the southern Italian pronunciation. Elaine, the youngest of 5 biological children, was 14 years younger than her next oldest sister. She was close with an informally adopted sister, 7 years younger. Elaine went to Mount Vernon public schools and a small Catholic Girls College run by Sisters of Divine Compassion. She was an English major and History minor, planning to get a job teaching English. Unable to teach in the public schools of Westchester County without a Master's degree, she taught in parochial schools, specifically 9th grade English in St. Gabriel High school, New Rochelle, NY. 

In 1950 her father died, and she became responsible for support of her mother and younger sister. She began working at Columbia University in the bursar’s office, and later enrolled at an evening program at Hunter College to earn a Master's degree in teaching English. She taught 9th grade English in New Rochelle for 7 years, after which she was entitled to a year sabbatical leave at half pay. Around that time, in 1960, her mother died after two years of illness. Elaine was very close to her mother, and took care of her for 10 years. 

Elaine had always wanted to go to California, and applied for the sabbatical so she could travel there. She applied to the English graduate program at UC Berkeley, was admitted, and moved to Berkeley in July, 1963. At UC she became interested in Anglo-Saxon literature. After reading a paper she had written for a Beowulf class with Alain Renoir (grandson of the painter), he invited her to transfer into Comparative Literature to pursue a PhD. She enjoyed graduate school but after several years, decided not to finish the PhD, and left with a Master's in Comparative Literature. 

She lived at International House her first year and befriended many other students, including a Kenyan woman, Paulina Kadali who had a Quaker background. Elaine was a devout Catholic, but around 1967 she had a crisis of faith, and became weary of ritual and the role of priest as intermediary. Remembering Paulina’s description of Quakers, she worked up the courage to visit the Berkeley Friends Meeting on Vine Street, Berkeley. Being a good Catholic, she asked whether she could attend the service.  Bob Jolly was there, welcomed her warmly, introducing her to other Friends in the Meeting. She knew then that she had found what she was looking for, and has been connected to the meeting ever since. 

After she moved into Redwood Gardens, a housing complex for seniors and disabled poeple in Berkeley, the Meeting cared for her. Many members and attenders visited her during those years. She was always cheerful and attentive, even when she didn't seem to understand, and those visitors had a great affection for her. Elaine passed on February 6th, 2019, at the age of 93. She did an oral history for the meeting in 2010.