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Obituary of Elima Higgins


Elima Kearsley Higgins passed away on December 21, 2019 at the age of 97. Elima (which means “five” in the Fijian language), was born on November 3, 1922 in Adelaide, Australia as the fifth child of Constance (Ambler) and William Kearsley. Her mother was born in the Fiji Islands as were her five siblings, making Elima the only member of the family born outside of the then British colony.

Following graduation from the Suva Fiji Girls’ School, Elima engaged in the wartime efforts of WWII, as Fiji was strategically close to invasion and a location for medical response. She met and married Captain Paul Higgins in 1944 who was a medical officer serving with the Johns Hopkins 18th General Hospital stationed in Fiji. Soon thereafter the unit transferred to India and Paul was sent on detached services to join forces with the Chinese Army on the Burma Road. Alone, Elima found her way in 1945 from the South Pacific to the United States. She and Paul were happily married for 67 years.

During her years living in Cortland, Elima served as a board member of the Elizabeth Brewster House, the 1890 House, and Lime Hollow, and was a Blood Bank volunteer. She enjoyed many years with longstanding friends as a member of the Fortnightly Club and Homer Garden Club. Her beautiful English garden is a testament to her love of unique floral species, many cuttings of which she shared with other interested gardeners. She was also an avid skier at Greek Peak (probably the first from the Fiji Islands) and could raise a sail faster than any other when she and Paul set off in their sailboat across Skaneateles Lake.

Elima was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. R. Paul Higgins, jr., and her siblings. She is survived by her children, David (Cindy) Higgins of Evergreen, CO; Betsy Walters of Mahopac, NY; and Susan Higgins (Scott Gill) of Bozeman, MT; six granddaughters; and seven great grandchildren. A service will be held to celebrate Elima’s life on Tuesday, January 21 at 11:00 a.m. at the United Presbyterian Church in Cortland. A reception will be held directly following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lime Hollow Nature Center in McLean, New York.

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