Allison Kirtland Kaufhold
July 12, 1917 Ė September 3, 2007
Allison Kirtland Kaufold was born in Temperance, Michigan, on July 12, 1917, the second of John Ezra and Florence Durfee (Keeney) Kirtlandís six children. She attended a one-room school of 60 students with one teacher, a wood stove, and an outhouse. When Allison was a young woman, teaching high school near Detroit, Michigan, she met Fritz Kaufhold, a German citizen, an "enemy alien," and a pacifist, at a youth hostel training in Massachusetts. The year was 1941, and the U.S. was about to declare war. Allison had grown up Presbyterian in a farming community; no one she knew was involved in such suspicious activities. She began a journey she described as "difficult and wonderful." She would learn what it was like to be viewed as un-American, even dangerous. She would find herself alone and isolated, waiting for forces beyond her control to allow her to restart a normal life, and constantly having to explain to strangers why her husband was not serving in the war effort.
The police had to know everywhere Fritz went; he had to get permission to travel to Michigan to marry Allison. Joining the army could have been a quick path to U.S. citizenship, but instead Fritz claimed Conscientious Objector status, and after a year of marriage in Massachusetts, Fritz was sent to Colorado to do alternative service in the Civilian Public Service Camps, and Allison moved alone to Albuquerque in hopes of being nearer to him. As it turned out, the pair saw each other twice in two years. Fritz's second assignment was in a hepatitis study in Philadelphia; he enjoyed a fraternity life in a luxurious dorm with the other CO's, while Allison lived in a one-room apartment and had a variety of jobs. The persecution Fritz and she suffered, she said, gave her sensitivity to the persecution of others, and the ability to recognize it and not participate when it is happening. She told an interviewer in 2006 that she was glad to have had the experience of being an undesirable, frightening person in the eyes of others.
After the war Allison and Fritz bought a farm in Gill, Massachusetts with another couple, a property that needed enormous fixing up. Their only vehicle was an old truck that came with the barn. They made everything they needed, did maple sugaring, grew and canned vegetables and kept chickens, cut timbers from the woods to repair the buildings and started a silk screen business in the attic. Fritz went back to work, and Allison stayed home to parent their two sons, Peter and John.
Allison thought she was not "sanctimonious" enough to be a Quaker. Quakers, it seemed to her, were people who consistently lived their spiritual beliefs. It took five years of attending meetings, and the beginning of a life with Fritz whom she was learning was not perfect though he was a Quaker, to get her courage up to become a Friend. The family was very involved with the Quaker community that became the Mount Toby Monthly Meeting when several smaller meetings joined together to build a meetinghouse.
Allison went back to teaching when her youngest son began school, and taught elementary school for ten years. Then she was asked to sign a loyalty oath to the government, and refused. Allison had another experience she described as wonderful and terrifying, finding herself abandoned by her coworkers who were too afraid to stand up for her. Though she had been an effective teacher and a leader, only one other teacher would write a letter on her behalf. Her husband, now a proud U.S. citizen, also found it hard to understand and support her position.
In 1978, at the age of 61, Allison and Fritz divorced, and Allison joined the Peace Corp, serving in a frontier town in Paraguay for two years. She taught Home Science to boys, and Shop class to girls. When she returned, she moved into a Quaker community in Massachusetts, where she lived with many dear friends. The community collapsed financially, however, and Allison moved into a friend's attic in Boston and got a job. Allison was thinking of getting her own apartment when she was mugged and decided that city life was not for her. During this time, she and Fritz were able to put a civil friendship back together so they could be in touch. As his health declined near the end of his life, Allison and their sons took care of him, with the help of Mount Toby Meeting.
Allison chose the Monadnock area to be near her friend Ginny Towle. She was advised that she did not want a house "at her age," but she insisted that she did indeed, and she and Ginny found the house by the river in West Peterborough. Her simple home was a place of rest and reflection for herself and others.
She enjoyed tending her river-side yard and gardens, playing recorder with friends, walking near McDowell Lake, attending area arts activities, tending to firewood and to fires in her wood stove, and satisfying her natural curiosity through reading and discussions with a wide circle of friends. Born and raised on a farm, Allison never lost her love for the land, and for the cycle of the seasons. As an activist for peace, Allison was a faithful presence at the weekly Peace Vigil in front of the Peterborough Town Hall, which started soon after 9/11 in 2001. She served with energy on many committees at Monadnock Meeting. She anchored the back bench each first day and would stand to give her messages, often beginning, "I rise to appreciate...."
In August 2007, Allison announced to family and then to friends that she had decided to "stop eating and taking liquid, resulting in my death." She wrote a statement that she could give to people to abbreviate long explanations. She asked for and received support from friends and family. She described the limits of the care she would accept, and her friends and faith community supplied itónot without some pain and personal searching. Even at the end Allison was challenging us. When asked, in her last days, "What does time feel like to you, long or short?" she answered "Smooth."