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Doris Felde Avshalomov ’43, MAT ’63

November 4, 2020, in Portland.

A lifelong Portlander, Doris was born at her family’s home in Eastmoreland. As a child she and her brother would walk to Reed’s campus to pick raspberries and swim in the pool. “To me Reed was like a magic place,” she later recalled. After graduating from Franklin High School at age 16, she worked in the public library as a page for three years in order to earn enough money to start college. When asked why she chose Reed, Doris, whose parents hadn’t attended college, answered that she thought it “would be a good place to go because serious students went to Reed.”

Doris came to Reed as a day-dodger, living at home and walking to campus each day to attend classes and participate in musical activities. She took double bass and voice lessons, sang in the chorus and a madrigal group, and performed in several theatre productions. She studied literature and wrote a thesis on Virginia Woolf under Prof. Victor L.O. Chittick [English 1921–48]. She also took classes on creative writing and 18th-century literature with Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English & art 1929–69]. He “was sort of my hero,” Doris said. “He was a great teacher . . . He had sort of beetling brows, and he’d say, ‘Now, I may look angry but I’m not. It’s just the way my eyebrows are.’” Other highlights at Reed included classes with Profs. Rex Arragon [history 1923–62], Barry Cerf [English 1921–48], Harold Sproul [music 1938–43], and F.L. Griffin [mathematics 1911–52].

Through her brother, a violist with the Portland Junior Symphony, Doris met a cellist named Jacob Avshalomov ’43, LHD ’73. The two quickly became a romantic item at Reed—Doris had a photo of them flirting in front of Eliot Hall—as well as creative collaborators, with Doris singing some of Jacob’s compositions and Jacob later setting some of Doris’s poems to music. They married in 1943. Jacob would go on to spend 41 years as conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic; he died in 2013. The couple had two sons, David and Daniel, who both became professional musicians.

As a public school teacher in Portland, Doris worked at Franklin and Wilson High Schools before deciding at age 60 to become a publisher. She’d attended a summer poetry workshop in Port Townsend, Washington, where she had the chance to typeset and print a poem, and she fell in love with letterpress. She began hunting for an antique printer and eventually found a Chandler & Price press manufactured in 1920—the same year she was born. It weighed a half ton and had to be dislodged from the second floor of an old building in downtown Portland. “There was no elevator, and the room was so small that the door had to be taken off and the press partly dismantled,” Doris told The Woman’s Journal for a 1994 article. A couple of strong piano movers helped transport the press to the basement of Doris and Jacob’s home in the West Hills.

Doris launched Howlet Press—the name references the witches’ brew in Macbeth—in 1980. The first book she published was a collection of her own poetry, Equisetum, which included a poem about calligraphy dedicated to Reynolds. She went on to publish more than 30 hand-set and hand-bound books, mostly poetry and chapbooks by Northwest writers, including two by Lois Baker Janzer ’50, MAT ’66. As publisher, Doris designed the covers, printed the necessary copies, bound the books, and helped some with distribution. She closed the press in 2013.

Doris is survived by her sons and two grandchildren.

Appeared in Reed magazine: Fall 2023

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