Miriam “Mitzi” Goheen

Miriam “Mitzi” Goheen


Aug. 10, 1942 — Nov. 8, 2019

Miriam Goheen, known to friends and family as Mitzi, passed away at home in her own bed, as she wished, on November 8, 2019. She was 77 years old.

Mitzi was born on August 10, 1942, in Bellingham, Washington, to Harry and Molly Goheen at her grandparents’ farm, Arborcourt, a place she always held dear in her heart. From there, she went on to live in cities around the world, including Syracuse, New York, Madison, Wisconsin, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, Corvallis, and Kumbo, Cameroon.

After graduating from Corvallis High School and Oregon State University, Mitzi received her PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University. Her field work brought her to the Nso Kingdom in Cameroon, where she undertook her life’s work and found a true home. She lived in Nso periodically for 16 years and there was accorded the title Yaa Nso (Queen Nso).

A respected and dedicated scholar, her book “Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops” is a classic in economic anthropology and gender studies. Mitzi taught at Tufts University early in her career and was a longtime Professor of Anthropology and Black Studies at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. During her tenure, she also served as Chair of the Anthropology and Black Studies Departments at Amherst, and as Editor of the African Studies Review.

Mitzi was married to Larry Mahaffey from 1960 to 1973, and they had a son, Patrick. Mitzi was an extraordinarily loving mother to Patrick, ensuring that he understood the intricacies of Hegel and Marx at a young age, and a devoted grandmother, lavishing love and gifts on her grandchildren, Harry, Siobhan and Alfred.

Mitzi married Steve Fjellman in 1977 in Sarasota, Florida, and Steve remained her partner, her caregiver, and her hero until the end. Mitzi retired from teaching in 2017 and moved home to Corvallis with Steve, where they enjoyed taking trips to the Oregon coast with family, reading, following politics, and working in her gardens. Mitzi was a great cook, with large elaborate feasts a particular specialty, which she delighted in sharing with her close-knit group of friends and family. Mitzi had a special place in her heart for the people of Nso, and wished she could have travelled home to the Nso Kingdom in her last few years.

She was a brilliant scholar, a great friend, a dedicated daughter, a doting sister, a loving wife and a caring mother.

Surviving Mitzi are her husband, Steve; her brothers, Mark and David; her sister-in-law, Jane; her son, Patrick; her daughter-in-law, Debbie; her step-daughter, Melina; her grandchildren, Harry, Siobhan, Alfred, Tynan and Tate; her nieces, Amanda and Jennifer; and her nephew, Matthew. We will all miss her greatly.

Services will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday November 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (2945 NW Circle Blvd.), followed by a reception at the same location.

We ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Harry and Molly Goheen Scholarship Fund at OSU.

Condolences can be left at www.demossdurdan.com.

To plant a tree in memory of Miriam Goheen as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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