The passing of Sylvia Plath's family and friends

The recent news that Sylvia Plath's brother, Warren Joseph Plath, passed away was sad news to receive. I am grateful to JulieMcC for alerting me via Twitter. 

One of the things I am trying to keep track of is when family and friends of Plath's pass away so that we can update their life dates in footnotes to The Letters of Sylvia Plath. You would not be incorrect to believe that one should spend their time in better ways, but keeping up-to-date on this is, I feel, important. 

So after I learned of Warren Plath's passing, I went through both volumes of the Letters and searched for obituaries and death notices for anyone with an open-ended life span. Some of the people even passed away before 2017 when Volume 1 came out, but I either missed them or did not search deep enough or, in fact, the information may not have been as readily accessible as it is now.

So here is a list of those who have passed away along with links to pages about their lives. May they all rest in peace. 

Volume I:

Warren Joseph Plath, (27 April 1935-14 February 2021)

Max Gaebler, (1921-2018)

Louise Giesey White, (1932-2020)

Elizabeth (‘Betsy’) Whittemore MacArthur (1933–2018)

Charlotte Kennedy Ehrenhaft (1932–2020)

Sarah Frank Chaffin (1932–2017)

Sonya Zelinkoff Simon (1932–2020)

Elizabeth Storer Paynter (1929–2020)

Philip Emerald McCurdy (1935– 2019)

Beverly L. Newell (1929– 2019)

Maria Canellakis Michaelides (1929–2020)

Holly Stair Greer (1931–2018)

James DuBois McNeely (1933–2017)

Nadine Neuburg Doughty (1934–2018)

Carol Koch Kaufman (1933–2018)

Elizabeth Claiborne Philips Handleman (1933–2019)

Alexander Goldstein, Jr (1935–2011)

David Holleman (1927–2020)

Norman Richard Shapiro (1930–2020)

Richard Laurence Sassoon (1934–2017)

Ann Birstein (1927–2017)

Carl M. Shakin (1934–2016)

Robin Chapman (1933–2020)

Richard Wilbur (1921–2017)

William Stanley Merwin (1927–2019)

Mary Bailey Derr Knox (1932–2017)

Rosemary Nesta Yale (1929–2019)

Volume II: Note that people who appeared in Volume II as well are not relisted below. 
David N. Keightley (1932–2017)

Joan Maxwell Bramwell (1923–2020)

Alfred Alvarez (1929–2019)

Marie Edith Borroff (1923–2019)

Kathleen Fraser (1935–2019)

Nicholas Mosley (1923–2017)

Sallie McFague (1933–2019)

Chou Wen-chung (1923–2019)

Howard Sand Rogovin (1927–2019)

Andrew Sinclair (1935–2019)

Leo A. Goodman (1928–2021)

Alan Anderson (1922–2016)

John Sherwood (1913–2002)

Charles Osborne (1927–2017)

Sylvia Plath was connected with an absolutely impressive circle of people and the above is just a few of those mentioned in her Letters.  

All links accessed 1 March 2021.


  1. In honor of Warren’s passing it should be noted that he was willing to adopt Sylvia’s children and requested that he and his wife Margaret be permitted to take them back to the US to be raised, a noble effort which would likely have spared much future grief.

  2. Not necessarily. All adoptions involve grief, one way or another. Eventually Frieda and Nicholas would have learned that Warren and Margaret Plath were not their biological parents. And while their earliest years in the Plath household, in an affluent American suburb, probably would have been more stable in terms of presumed parental figures, there would have been relatives visiting from England—who are they? Why are they here? If adopted, Frieda and Nick most likely would have been spared the deaths of Assia and Shura, at least at close range. But for the two to lose their mother to suicide absolutely guaranteed them trauma. It’s only a question of what kind, and when.


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