Lillian “Lilly” Alice Ackerman passed away peacefully at her home in Pullman Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, with her husband, Bob and daughter, Gail, by her side. She was 92 and had been a resident of Pullman since 1961.
Lilly was born April 14, 1928, to John and Marie Hanjian of Detroit, Mich. She grew up in the Armenian community of Detroit, and along with her brothers, Jerry and John, found herself immersed in the culture of the Armenian community as well as their cuisine which continued to delight her family and friends. As a resident of Michigan, Lilly went on to the University of Michigan where she met her husband, Bob. In 1950 and 1951 they obtained their BA and MA degrees in Anthropology and were married in 1952. They went on to spend an academic year in Philadelphia where Bob entered the doctoral program in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Their married life was interrupted by the Korean Conflict with Bob in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 to 1956. During this time, Lilly worked as a social worker in San Antonio and Detroit. The eldest daughter, Laura, was born in 1956, marking a return to civilian life. The couple, with a newborn, returned to Philadelphia for Bob to continue graduate work and receive his doctorate in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. In Philadelphia, Lilly translated articles in Russian and worked at the Benjamin Franklin Institute and where their second daughter, Gail, was born in 1961. Later that year, she joined Bob in Pullman where he was hired in what was to become the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University. Their son James was born in 1965. James was a handicapped child and needed special training and education. Lilly was a staunch advocate of special education and was instrumental in the development of a special education program in the Pullman School system.
Even with heavy responsibilities for James’s development, Lilly undertook her first Anthropological field work on the Nez Perce reservation in 1965. This was followed by a study of the life ways of the Eskimo peoples of Goodnews Bay village in southwestern Alaska in 1966 and 1967, followed by a study of the Tlingit Indians in southeastern Alaska in 1973. In 1979, she began a pilot study of the political activity of women on the Colville Indian Reservation.
This was followed by several years of research on the Colville Indian Reservation that resulted in the award of her doctorate in Anthropology from Washington State University in 1982. Since her doctorate, Lilly has served as a research anthropologist on a number of contract studies as well as serving as principal investigator on several research studies in the Plateau cultural region of the Pacific Northwest.
Besides numerous publications in scholarly journals, her crowning scholarly achievement was her book, “A Necessary Balance: Gender and Power among the Indians of the Columbia Plateau” in 2003. Active till late in life, her latest work, “Middle Columbia Salish” was published in 2014. Lilly was a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology as well a member of several other professional societies.
Lilly particularly enjoyed travel to foreign countries and attendance at international meetings gave her an opportunity to visit the countries of Korea, China, Russia and Chile. In France with her family, she marveled at the cathedrals and palaces of time gone by while in Italy and Greece she had the opportunity to walk among the monumental ruins of past Greek and Roman cultures. She was an avid reader and a scholar on several fronts, a devotee of opera and enjoyed classical music of all eras. On the domestic side, her dinner parties with featured Armenian dishes were long remembered.
Lilly is survived by her husband, Bob; her daughters, Laura in Scottsdale, Ariz., Gail in Kent, Wash., and son Jim in Pullman; as well as her brother John and sister-in-law Carmen of Detroit; and nieces and nephews in Florida and Georgia. We owe a debt of gratitude to the hospice workers of Kindred Home Health who made the last few months of her life a peaceful transition to her final passing.
The Neptune Society was in charge of final arrangements for her cremation. There are no immediate plans for a memorial service given the current epidemic.
It is difficult to sum up an entire person’s life in a few words, but as a loving wife, mother and friend, she enriched the lives of her family and all that knew her.