In Remembrance: Winifred I. Li ’72 Died on September 16 2023

View full image

Winifred I. Li of Weston, Massachusetts died peacefully on September 16, 2023, at the age of 72.  She was in the comfort of her home and in the company of her family. The daughter of Yao Tzu Li and Nancy Li (Tung Tuan Lin), she was born in Boston and raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts, earning a BA from Yale University (1972) and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (1976). While studying at Berkeley, she met her husband, William Parker Oliver, whom she married in 1975. She was a steadfast attorney, a pillar in her community, a lover of the arts, and a devoted mother and grandmother.

Winifred was a pioneer in her field, both as a woman and as an Asian American. As a child in the 1950s, she quickly realized that women were not treated as equals of men and that Asian-looking people were often stereotyped, and she was determined to escape these limitations. She joined Yale the first year it admitted women students, and she began her career in law as a trusts and estates attorney at a time when both female attorneys and Asian American attorneys were relatively rare. She practiced law for more than four decades, as a partner at Hill & Barlow LLP and later as a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP, while consistently being named to The Best Lawyers in America and Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Always an advocate for fairness in an unfair world, she generously donated her time and money to promote underserved populations.

Deeply involved in her community, Winifred served on the Town of Weston's Zoning Board of Appeals for almost 30 years, where she was praised for her leadership, intelligence, tact, and fair-mindedness.  She was involved in numerous capacities in the First Parish Church of Weston, most notably serving as a member of the Standing Committee for over 20 years, including five years as the chair. She loved all aspects of music, including singing in the Weston Community Chorus and playing instruments (most fondly remembering her time playing the carillon at Yale). Her love of classical music concerts led her to leadership roles at the Handel & Haydn Society. Winifred was an avid reader. She valued learning about other cultures to better understand different worldviews and loved to travel, finding time to visit all seven continents and countless countries when not traveling to visit her grandchildren. Her loyal husband Bill would always accompany her on her travels until his death in 2020. She prioritized her health, a value she learned from her mother, and in her retirement led an active lifestyle, which included skiing, golf, fitness classes, and hikes.  She remained strong throughout her battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which ultimately claimed her life.

Winifred is survived by her three children, Jeffries Oliver-Li (and wife Jennifer) of Telluride, Colorado; Parker Oliver-Li of Brookline, Massachusetts; and Alisan Oliver-Li (and husband Mark Shpizner) of New York, New York; her four grandchildren, Sophia Oliver, Claire Oliver, Anna Shpizner, and Lily Shpizner; her three siblings, Karl (and wife Wei Xu), Kenneth (and wife Valerie Ng), and Wendy (and husband Jonathan Spector); and numerous cousins, in-laws, nieces, and nephews.

The burial will be private, and a memorial service will be held in the coming months. If you would like to send a gift, in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Handel & Haydn Society in Winifred's honor. 

—Submitted by the family.

Post a remembrance