Rebecca Lin (Becca) Harber unexpectedly passed away in Ithaca, New York, on November 16, 2022, at 72 years of age. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, to William Harber, a college chemistry professor, and Adrienne Harber, a community activist and child wellbeing proponent.
Becca grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. She attended Phillip Murray Elementary School (now Murray Language Academy), Bret Harte Middle School (now Bret Harte Math and Science Magnet Cluster School), and Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Academy High School).
Becca excelled throughout all her years in school and won awards from the local to national level for her academic abilities, especially in Math and Science. She received a full merit-based scholarship to attend college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. That was the beginning of her love affair with Ithaca and the incredible people she met in that community.
When Becca was very young, she liked to be silly, sometimes spontaneously dancing or making faces. That capacity for genuine expression continued throughout her life. When she was in her teens, she was studious and always received straight As. She often was quiet and reserved at home but could surprise those around her when she jumped out of that shell. Throughout her early years, she always was extraordinarily well-organized.
From a young age, Becca was a very health-conscious individual. Her Mother had raised all her kids to the mantra of Adele Davis (Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit) but Becca took it all to a different level (especially compared to her Cheetos-loving brother).
She grew up eating brown rice and the only sugar her Mom would allow was ice milk --- supposedly like ice cream, but Becca knew it actually fell short. Becca and her siblings would beg for Banquet TV dinners or pot pies, but usually it was to no avail. Becca soon left those days far behind and did her best to encourage her siblings to follow suit.
Becca loved the outdoors her entire life and, despite being so studious and so successful academically, could always be found outside exploring what the greater Chicago area had to offer (e.g., the Forest Preserves, the Indiana Dunes, and Chicago’s many parks). She was especially close to her Father who, because she was his favorite child (it was no contest!), took her to many places they could explore together.
While growing up, Becca became animated when she was around her cousins, other extended family members, and friends. When the family spent time at McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer, Indiana, she would come alive. Being in Nature transformed her. She was ecstatic when she tobogganed in her neighborhood or at places such as Pokagan State Park in Angola, Indiana.
Becca learned to play the piano at a young age and eventually also taught herself to play the guitar. Singing came to her naturally and provided a lifetime of joyous expression for her. She taught her sister, Leah, songs and they enjoyed singing together. The last time she was with her sister, while in the company of several cousins, they sang several songs which Becca had written. Becca did this with many of her friends who cherished those times together.
Because Nature always was foundational for her, Becca studied Ornithology starting at a young age. She bird-watched her entire life, beginning with her Dad in the family’s tree-filled backyard and then going to places such as Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side as well as Chicago’s aforementioned Forest Preserves. Becca even had her Father build a birdfeeder outside her bedroom window. One of the results was her meeting a beautiful cardinal she named “Click.” Click would come back every year, which gave Becca great joy.
Becca had more “Best Friends” than anyone could imagine. An ardent Feminist, she participated in many women’s groups and spent a good part of her life supporting other women and advancing their interests. Like her parents, she was a true believer in Social Justice and worked nonstop to protect the planet and its environment. In Ithaca, she was known for her opposition to fossil fuel development and how strongly she felt it despoiled the planet.
Becca lived her Life Principles to a degree admired by all who knew her. She minimized her environmental footprint to such an extent that she was a model for all those around her. There was no question that Mother Earth considered Becca as her closest daughter.
In her mid-twenties, Becca moved from Ithaca to Boulder, Colorado, where she became a major participant in a number of different groups and communities. Due to her love of being outdoors, she found the perfect job working as a Municipal Meter Reader for the City of Boulder. Thanks to her brisk and long stride, she could strategically do her entire route in half the time of her peers (getting credited, of course, for a full eight-hour day!) and then would have the majority of each day still available to her.
After about four years in Boulder, Becca returned to Ithaca and had various jobs while starting her herbal tincture business, Red Eft Herbals. She was a well-respected Herbalist who constantly studied the science of plants. She also became a Guide for nature walks in the greater Ithaca area. Over the years, she opened up the World of the Outdoors to hundreds of people and even generously took special friends on extraordinary trips inside and outside of the United States so they could see more of what the planet she revered had to offer.
Becca was an extraordinarily active and loved member in the Ithaca community and surrounding area. She was involved with several groups including Dance Church, belly dancing troupes, and drumming groups, to name a few.
She operated her tincture business to help family and friends. At Ithaca’s famous GreenStar Food Coop, Becca worked for many years as an employee and also served as a representative speaking out for employees’ rights on the Co-op’s Council. She would discuss all kinds of issues with her brother, Aaron, over the years --- ranging from the need for better management decisions at GreenStar to improving employee rights to the store’s need to make better product choices.
Becca also sold her tinctures at GreenStar so she worked as a supplier to the co-op, too. She saw her tincture business as an opportunity to provide valuable health and medical alternatives for members of her community, about whom she cared so much. Becca had many friends at GreenStar and was able to connect with others across the broader Ithaca community while working at the store.
Becca enjoyed sharing information about health-related concepts including natural remedies. She had long discussions about Alternative Medicine and books with many friends and family members. Becca relished cooking healthy, organic meals, and eating them, too, especially when she used food she grew herself.
Becca greatly appreciated the amazing array of parks and beautiful trails around the Ithaca area. They all were very important to her and were exemplars of Nature which she wanted to share with everyone. Becca’s love of Nature was equally evident when she was always commenting on her discoveries during hikes in the area and even at times she spent on her own property.
Taking after the artistic side of her Mother, Becca identically used leaves, flowers and other things she found on walks and in her own yard to make beautiful artwork. She also loved playing a Native American flute. She often did this while outdoors, which perfectly complimented her integration into Nature and the serenity she experienced.
Becca was an amazing gardener and was able to generate an abundance of produce and herbs from the tiniest of plots. It was as if the Sorcerer’s Apprentice had decided to grow a few vegetables and soon had a nonstop, overflowing bounty which could be shared with friends across the entire community.
Gardening also was part of Becca’s ability to be so self-reliant. Wherever she lived, she always had a garden (and, sometimes, even more than one) and generously shared her agricultural success with everyone she could.
Becca also magnanimously shared her knowledge with others. She taught numerous classes and always was available to give advice. She constantly bettered herself by learning from others, taking classes, getting certifications, and reading voraciously. Whether it was Neural Linguistic Programming, Nonviolent Communication or many other subjects, Becca had the capacity to quickly master new material and then share it for the benefit of others.
Over several decades while at GreenStar and via other opportunities, Becca dedicated herself to this life of sharing and teaching which helped thousands of people. This was most exemplified by her giving seminars on Herbal Medicines, Medicinal Plants, Herbal Foods for Allergies as well as Herbal Remedies for Stress Reduction, Emotional Needs, Pregnancy, Arthritis, and as an Alternative to Antibiotics, to name just several topics. Seminars on Psychodrama Training, Lyme Disease Prevention and Care (after being infected herself), and Compassionate Communication were among additional sessions Becca provided her community in her constant effort to give back and support others.
Becca cared greatly about her niece, Holly Harber, and her nephew, Joel Vandersluis. In her many conversations with her brother, she always probed to see what she could do to support Holly. The family knows how deeply Joel and Holly miss their special Aunt.
Becca truly was a gifted individual in so many respects and was an extraordinary Force of Nature. Because she left us so unexpectedly and so prematurely, she is being greatly missed more than ever. After all, given her focus on leading such a healthy life, everyone assumed she was nearly immortal.
Her family has appreciated the many kind words and statements they already have received about Becca and loved the stories so many people have about how Becca touched their lives.
Becca is survived by Aaron Harber (brother), Leah Vandersluis (sister), Holly Harber (niece), and Joel Vandersluis (nephew). She will be greatly missed by her family, cousins, and many friends. A Celebration of Life Service for Becca will be held at the Foundation of Light (391 Turkey Hill Road, Ithaca, NY 14850) on Sunday, December 11th at 2:00 pm Eastern Time.
Comments made about Becca by some of her friends and family include the following:
“Becca unknowingly gave me many gifts just because she shared herself freely. But the gift that touched me the most was the gift to be myself. For that, I will always be grateful. I see Becca as a beautiful, tall, strong standing tree - a free spirit - and that is how she moved in the world. It was such a gift to be with her. She will always hold a special place in my heart and I will miss her.” (Debby Howe, friend)
“My impression with Becca is that of a pure, gentle soul. She never judged, always accepting and loving of who you were.” (Mike Hoffman, cousin)
“Becca's vibrant life force was expressed in an extraordinary range of forms. She shared her creative gifts freely, including her otherworldly Native American flute playing; her spirited drumming (especially her love of African rhythms); her original song-writing; her visual art incorporating elements of the natural world; her prolific prose and poetry; her informative journalism; and her heartfelt love of all kinds of dance—from free form to belly dance to Motown. Her search for intimacy and connection included the study and facilitation of Psychodram and Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Nonviolent Communication,’ which she re-named ‘Compassionate Communication’ for her workshops.”
(Kathy Morris, friend)
“No pretense, nothing contrived, no strategizing. So rare. She was in communication with the essence, without any piety. Still, she felt alone. Her principles would never let her pander for the companionship she may have wanted. No contriving. But what a joy to be with her, sharing in the kind of Joy she would never compromise. I aspire! such Commitment, Honor, Certainty, Truth. (Jaird DeRaismes, friend)
“For the past several years, Becca was a vibrant member of Mirage Belly Dancers of Ithaca, contributing to their shows not only with her dancing but with songs and poetry. She especially enjoyed the troupe’s slow veil numbers, such as to Enya’s “Orinoco Flow, and also performed with shimmering silver Isis wings. Her laughter and heart-to-heart hugs were so very important to her fellow dancers, and she was especially good at getting audience members to join in and move with Mirage in their finales.” (Zajal Mahan, friend)
“Becca was a dear friend to me for many years. She and I met when we joined a music group called "Sound and Spirit" in the mid-nineties. We played drums and sang in this performance group for several years. We also played drums for West African dance classes and performances in other groups at that time. More recently, we were hiking and skiing a lot together in the parks around Ithaca.” (Sharon Beltaine, friend)
“I believe Becca had a longing for a better world… one that made more sense to her.. a world that moved more slowly, took more time to commune with each other….to listen and be in nature, more time to have fun to live and play and prayer with each other… She will be missed by so very many of us in our Ithaca community.” (Diane Farnham, friend)
It was an anti-Vietnam war march in DC in the late 60s. I took a chartered bus from Chicago and arrived at the March location on early Saturday morning. As I was mulling around taking in the electric atmosphere from the growing number of people Becca and I literally bumped into each other despite that there were tens of thousands of participants present. Becca moved to Colorado a couple of years earlier from Chicago and it was the first time we had seen each other since the move. We visited for a few minutes and rejoined our respective groups. I have always remembered this meeting over the years and thought to myself how Becca stayed so true to the message of peace and civil rights with her beliefs and life style. She was a singularly unique person that all of us could admire. She will be missed. (Marty Brown first cousin)
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