By Peggy Mackenzie
A crowd of costumed friends gave one of Lewisburg’s most colorful residents, Eileen Kramer, a wonderful send-off at the Greenbrier Valley Airport Wednesday afternoon upon her departure for Australia. Garbed in attire designed and sewn by Eileen from Trillium performances over the years, and bearing large masks she’d painted, the gathering lovingly gave tribute to say “Thank you” and “We love you” and “We will miss you.”
An elegant fixture of Lewisburg for many years, Eileen Kramer was born in Sydney, Australia in 1914. Eileen, who will turn 100 at the end of next year, is still vibrant, physically active and mentally alert. Looking much younger than her years, she is much envied and admired. Adored even – and an inspiration.
As noted in Walkabout Dancer, a chronicle of her life, at age 25 Eileen’s life was changed when she attended a performance of Madam Bodenwieser’s Dance Company, “opening a door for her world travels and her remarkable journey through life.” Her travels took her to many exotic parts of the world including India, Australia, Paris, New York, London, South Africa, Turkey, even Afghanistan. She absorbed the cultures and customs she encountered – appreciation of music, art, architecture, and politics – and stored inspirations for dance dramas in her “India Bag,” her reference to a dilly bag, an Australian outback basket made of rushes or bark, as a device for storing memories and images.
Eileen’s history in West Virginia began when she arrived by train from New York City in 1988. She lived for a time in Hinton with her friend Maryat Lee, founder of Eco Theater.
In 1992, seeking a place of her own, she moved to Lewisburg into an apartment on the corner of Washington and Court Streets, where “…in every apartment and small room some kind of creative work was in progress.” Beth White and Carli Mareneck’s The Dance Studio was upstairs, Glenn Singer worked on his Horse and Rider act on the second floor landing, and next door weaver Lynn Creamer wove her cloth. Painters, poets, singers, all were in residence encouraging her to take up dance once again. Finally persuaded to join Beth’s improv class, Eileen soon developed a dance drama called Whispers, Cries and Angels which was the featured presentation in a concert held at Carnegie Hall. With this concert, she says, she became “known to the dance lovers of Lewisburg.”
Other dance dramas followed: The Garden, Isis and Osiris in Egypt, Osiris and the Black Hole, Star, The Buddha’s Wife, and many more. Eileen is not only a dancer, she is a talented artist and costume designer and her creative skills never ceased to amaze.
Very shortly after her arrival she was introduced to William D. Tuckwiller, a seventh generation Greenbrier resident, with whom she enjoyed a mutual admiration until his death in 1997. Their backgrounds were as different as different could be, but they shared a lasting “summer romance.” After Bill’s death, Eileen moved to a small house on Court Street that Bill and his family had made available for her to live in where she has remained until her departure this week. With the support of Trillium and The Dance Studio, as Eileen describes in The Walkabout Dancer, she has been enabled “to find fulfillment as a creator of my own works in this little town of Lewisburg, West Virginia.”
Word has already been received that Eileen, who arrived in Sydney early Thursday morning, said, “It was a breeze!” Two nice men looked after her. Actually there were three nice men.
She received a royal welcome and a nice cup of tea. What a woman!!!!!
We hope to hear of your further adventures in Australia. So, for now we’ll just say G’day, Eileen, G’day!