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Georgia Lee

Georgia Lee passed away in her home on July 9, 2016 after a brief illness. By her side was her granddaughter Rachel Lee and Cynthia Morin, daughter of Georgia’s lifelong partner, Frank. Georgia was loved and respected by many people. She inspired us with her sense of humor, intellect, work ethic and knowledge. Georgia will be deeply missed by her family, friends and colleagues.

Georgia was born in Alameda, CA in 1926, and lived in Orinda for most of her childhood. She married Charles Fleshman in 1947, and they had 3 children: Stephen, Wendy and Stacey.

Georgia received her Associate of Arts degree from Stephens College in Columbia, MO, in 1945. In 1948, she graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland with a Bachelor’s degree in Art and a teaching credential.

Later in life, at age 45, Georgia decided to go back to school, proving that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. In 1978 she received her MA in Art History from U.C. Santa Barbara. In 1986 she received her Ph.D. in Archaeology from University of California, Los Angeles, with her thesis on the rock art of Easter Island. When asked what she would do with a Ph.D. in Archaeology, she replied’ “there’s always room at the top”!

Georgia’s Ph.D. was based on six years of fieldwork on Easter Island and culminated in the publication of her classic book, The Rock Art of Easter Island: Symbols of Power, Prayers to the Gods, which presents the first island-wide comprehensive documentation of thousands petroglyphs and rock paintings found on the island. Georgia began her fieldwork on Easter Island in 1981, entering into close relationships with the islanders, both men and women. In her 2006 book, Rapa Nui, Island of Memory, she describes her relationships with the Rapanui people, weaving strands of communal tales together. She also wrote the first guidebook to the island, An Uncommon Guide to Easter Island, in 1981, a time when tourists were not common. Much of Georgia’s work on Easter Island and in Hawaii was implemented by University Research Expeditions through the University of California, Berkeley. Always an artist, Georgia sketched and painted the many places she visited and worked at during her lifetime.

In addition to her work on Easter Island, Georgia undertook extensive archaeological work in Hawaii, leading several projects to document the rock art of the Hawaiian Islands. Her seminal book, Spirit of Place, Petroglyphs of Hawaii, has been reprinted several times and continues to be a popular book in Hawaii to this day.

Georgia’s extensive research in California included study and documentation of Chumash and other rock art sites in Central California. She wrote the children’s book, A Day with a Chumash, as well as the classic publications The Portable Cosmos: Effigies, Ornaments, and Incised Stones from the Chumash Area and The Chumash Cosmos.

Georgia was a founding member of the Easter Island Foundation, established in 1981, whose mission was to build a research library on Easter Island in addition to promoting awareness of the island’s fragile cultural heritage. Under her guidance, the Foundation has supported the creation of the William Mulloy Library at the Museo Antropológico P. Sebastián Englert Museum, established scholarship program for university students of Easter Island ancestry, provided grants for research projects on Easter Island and sponsored International symposia about Easter Island and Polynesia. She initiated the Easter Island Foundation’s publishing program and was the founding editor of the Rapa Nui Journal, which began publication in 1989.

In 1985 Georgia met Frank Morin. Frank, a retired physicist, would become her lifelong partner and collaborator. He accompanied Georgia on field excursions throughout many parts of Polynesia and California, surveying and mapping the sites she documented. They also worked together as a team on many of the Easter Island Foundation’s book publications and the Rapa Nui Journal; Georgia as the writer and editor and Frank as the designer and set up person. They were rarely apart, and had many wonderful adventures during their time and travels together. Frank passed away in 2012 and left a huge void in Georgia’s life.

Georgia was featured in Sky Bergman’s documentary film, Lives Well Lived, which tells the life stories and philosophies of 40 elders and captures their ideals and ideas. When asked by Sky to define a life well lived, Georgia replied, “I think doing something you love, contributing to something. I’ve always felt you need to sit loosely in the saddle of life as you go down that long trail.”

Georgia inspired many people who she met along the path of her life, several who went on to become archaeologists themselves. She made an impression on everyone she met. She was always ready to help and share information with anyone who contacted her with a request. She had friends all over the world and many that she knew via email, which was her preferred daily method of communication.

Georgia’s collection of modern replicas of ancient Rapanui wooden carvings was donated to the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington; her extensive Easter Island slide collection is housed at the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley and at the Museo Antropológico P. Sebastián Englert on Easter Island, and her Chumash materials have been donated to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where she was a Research Associate for many years.

Georgia is survived by her children Wendy Lee and Stacey Osborne, as well as nine grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her son Stephen Fleshman.

Donations can be made to the Easter Island Foundation’s Georgia Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides university scholarships for students of Easter Island ancestry.

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