Obituary: Elizabeth Kalifon

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Elizabeth Kalifon on a visit to Moscow in 2014. Kalifon died in her Malibu home May 2016. Photo Credit: David Kalifon

Elizabeth Kalifon, who in 1964 bought her Malibu West home when it was just a concrete slab nestled between a stand of adolescent sycamores and an ancient California oak, died naturally and peacefully there Thursday under hospice care, loving husband David Kalifon at her side.

Elizabeth Smith was born July 8, 1941, in Westwood, NJ, to Gerard and Thelma Smith, who after WWII relocated to booming Los Angeles. At San Fernando High, Elizabeth interviewed rocker Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba”) for the school paper.  

Enrolled at UC-Berkeley, studying journalism as anti-war protests raged, Elizabeth used the word “fuck” on a visit home. Her father retaliated, yanking her out of Cal. Elizabeth and boyfriend Donald Rowe transferred to USC and married. Elizabeth ultimately earned four degrees, two bachelors and two masters.

An LA Times ad for a development at the west end of Zuma lured the newlyweds from their rented Hollywood apartment to acquire that concrete slab situated on a cul-de-sac full of promise. The year 1967 brought son Jeremy, today of Malibu Park. In 1972, the Rowe marriage ended.  Elizabeth worked as a county social worker. She kept the house.

Elizabeth met James Walker at USC as she pursued a master’s, he a doctorate, both in psychology. For her studies, Elizabeth paid Malibu West kids in silver dollars to run Stanford-Binet and Rorschach tests on them. Walker moved in, married Elizabeth and later adopted Jeremy who, like the cluster of Berkeley undergrads Elizabeth had admired there, attended Ojai’s Thacher School. The plates on Elizabeth’s burnt-orange Mercedes-Benz read “FLUFFEE.”

The Walker marriage ended in 1985. Elizabeth changed her tags to “XXANAXX.” She kept the house.

By then, Elizabeth was school psychologist at South Central LA’s Foshay Jr. High, which she helped transform from warzone to K-12 Foshay Learning Center, spearheading creation of its on-campus clinic integrating physical, mental and emotional healthcare.  

Single as the ‘80s closed, Elizabeth and neighbor David Kalifon sparked in conversation at Trancas market. Their backyard wedding forged a love spanning over three decades of shared world travel, classical music, wonderful neighbors, wildfires and floods, fogged-in mornings and sycamore-dappled afternoons.