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Gordon B. Halstead

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PERU -- Gordon B. Halstead, 98, died peacefully at his home in Bennington on June 8, 2004. A longtime resident of Peru, Mr. Halstead was the husband of 76 years of Helen Honsinger Halstead, who survives him. He was born in Mount Kisco, N.Y., the son of Rita Storm and George W. Halstead. He graduated from Syracuse University, received an MA from the University of Michigan and undertook doctoral studies at Columbia University.

A committed activist, Mr. Halstead took part in many of the great causes of the 20th century. He was a prolific contributor to the letters to the editor pages of newspapers across the globe for more than 70 years. His subjects touched upon civil rights, issues of peace and freedom, social justice, nuclear proliferation and environmental concerns. A persistent voice for peace and justice, Mr. Halstead founded the Vermont Chapter of the United Nations Association. At the age of 86, he ran for the Vermont Legislature from Bennington County, one of the oldest candidates for political office in the country.

Mr. Halstead began his career at Lucknow Christian College in Lucknow, India in 1928. This was a tumultuous time in Indian history and Mr. Halstead expressed his solidarity with Mahatma Gandhi and the movement for Indian independence. In 1932 Mr. Halstead, his wife and young child were asked to leave India by the British government. In 1986, the Indian government invited the Halsteads to return to India as honored guests.

Mr. Halstead was the director of the Lima (N.Y.) Center for the National Youth Administration. This was a little-known project of the New Deal that provided unemployed urban youth with an opportunity to receive a technical education while being paid. The project was discontinued with the commencement of the Second World War. Other educational jobs included teaching for the Bronxville (N.Y.) Public Schools, Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Windham College in Putney, and acting headmaster of the Stowe School in Stowe.

During the Second World War, Mr. Halstead worked in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

That employment came to an end when Mr. Halstead discovered that his employment was related to the development of the atomic bomb. He then joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Washington, D.C. Other employment involved starting the East-West Foundation with Pearl Buck, The Foundation for Medical Education and the Foundation for Integrated Education.

In 1949, Mr. Halstead and several associates started Tourinns, the first motel chain in the United States. At the time it was a totally new concept: building motor oriented hotels one day’s drive apart along major highway routes. Holiday Inns modeled their motels on Tourinns. After retiring to Peru in 1968, Mr. Halstead and his wife organized and led India Travel Seminars for a number of years.

Mr. Halstead is survived by his wife Helen; daughter, Welthy Soni-Myers and her husband Paul, of Peru; sons, Dr. Lauro S. Halstead and wife Jessica, of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Scott Halstead and his wife Edna of North Bethesda, Md.; eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and a large extended family of nephews, nieces, cousins and close friends. A memorial service is planned for mid-August at the family home, Storm Acres, in Peru. Contributions may be made in Mr. Halstead’s memory to an organization of your choice.
Published in Bennington Banner on June 10, 2004
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