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Harriette Leidich

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Harriette Baughman Lerrigo Leidich

1912 - 2015 NORTH BENNINGTON, VT Harriette Baughman Lerrigo Leidich died peacefully in her sleep at home on February 24, 2015, 54 days shy of her 103rd birthday. She was one of the nation's oldest working newspaper columnists, author of three books, and honoree of the Vermont Legislature for her "life centered around journalism and the written word." She had been a resident of North Bennington, Vermont since 1995. She loved to travel, and made homes in 14 different places. In her later years, she became a world traveler. Harriette's love for meeting people, hearing and later sharing their stories and lives informed her writing, and resulted in friendships which lasted for decades. One of her favorite pleasures was to welcome both old and new visitors to her house and table. When she was 90 years old and beginning to slow down a bit, she would watch the trees outside her little house mark the seasons of life. And in her memoir It's a Slower Waltz, Harriette Leidich reflected: "After the trees have shaken or given up their leaves they look neglected, but they stand proudly showing their skeletons. They have not lost life or dignity. They are only waiting for that next season of growth." Born in Griswold, Iowa on April 19, 1912, Harriette was the last surviving of eight children of Austin Baughman and Etta Burrough Baughman. Her father was a local printer and newspaper editor in Nebraska and Kansas. From an early age, she worked in his print shop, and at age 14 began writing her own column about local happenings which she gathered by walking around town. While unable to attend college, Harriette was self-educated through her reading and keen observations of the world around her. In 1936, she married her first husband George A. Lerrigo. They were parents of two sons, Charles and George. Together she and her husband edited and published the weekly Overbrook (Kansas) Citizen and produced three other local weeklies. She was the youngest charter member of the Kansas Press Women's Association, serving as its first vice president. During World War II, she was founding editor of the War Training News at Kansas State College in Manhattan, Kansas. The family later moved to towns in the Midwest and South, when Mr. Lerrigo went into hospital work. In 1958, they moved to North Adams, Mass. where Mr. Lerrigo was administrator of the North Adams Regional Hospital until his death in 1978. In North Adams, Harriette was a charter member of the League of Women Voters, and editor of an award winning League publication. She also edited the newsletter of the North Adams Hospital Auxiliary, which won first honors for two years as the best auxiliary publication in New England. She joined the Daughters of the American Revolution becoming a 50-year member in 2011. She was also active in church and community work and ran a small mimeograph service. When her 38-year marriage to Mr. Lerrigo ended in divorce, Harriette began working for Haney Associates (a fund raising company), and covered assignments in Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. On one of her Pennsylvania assignments she met and later married Edwin B. Leidich, a former faculty member at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn. and an employee of AT&T where he was part of the team that developed the first transistor. The Leidichs lived for 15 years in Wilmington, Del. where they were active members of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, noted for their chicken corn chowder suppers and Harriette's column, The Church Mouse. They reached out to make many friends from all generations and backgrounds in the church and in their housing complex. The couple then moved to Hooksett, N.H. to be nearer to Ed's daughter and her family of whom Harriette had developed close ties. When Ed died in 1993, Harriette moved to Vermont to live close to her son George and his family. As was true throughout her life, Harriette continued to write for local groups with which she was involved. As a member of Second Congregational Church in Bennington, she authored more than 100 member profiles. In 1995, after doing some occasional reporting for the Bennington Banner, she began writing a regular column, "Senior Moments," offering reflections on earlier years and present day culture. She continued to write the column even after her 100th birthday, making her this country's oldest working columnist. "Senior Moments" became the basis for two books, Awful Green Stuff and the Nakedness of Trees and It's a Slower Waltz: Memorable Days from a Long Life. With her two sons she wrote a third book, Our Family Miracle: An Encounter with Cancer. This last book told the story of Charles' successful struggle against leukemia and of the family's involvement with his bone marrow transplant from his brother. The book is sometimes used in cancer wards of hospitals and care centers to assist families. As she aged, Harriette reflected on her own process, and in one of her columns, wrote these words: "I'm trying to not let the world pass me by as I count the years.The spots on the hands do not dismay me too much, as I know they are a badge of age, not a scourge. Crows' feet are not age lines to me they are laugh lines...Life for me now is a slower dance, but I'm still waltzing and enjoying every step." Harriette is survived by her two sons, the Rev. Charles Lerrigo of Oakland, Calif., a retired United Methodist minister and journalist and his wife, Pat Bruce-Lerrigo; and George E. Lerrigo II, of North Bennington, a retired French teacher from Mt. Anthony Union High School and his wife, Janice. She is also survived by a step-daughter, Edith Torrisi of Bedford, N.H.; a stepson, Harry Leidich and wife Dorothy of Roanoke, Va.; by one granddaughter, Ellen Bishop and her husband, Todd, of Auburn, N.Y.; a great-granddaughter, Emma Bishop; three step-grandchildren, Cori Poirier of North Andover, Mass., and Dale and David Leidich of Va.; and one step-great-grandson, Will Poirier. She was predeceased by a great-grandson, Will Torrisi. A celebration of Harriettte's life will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, March 7, 2015, at the Second Congregational Church, Hillside Street in Bennington. The family will receive friends at the church following the service. There will be no calling hours with burial in the spring in Catasauqua, Penn. where her ashes will be scattered on her husband Ed Leidich's grave. Donations in her memory may be made to the Second Congregational Church or the Bennington Museum in care of the HANSON-WALBRIDGE SHEA FUNERAL HOME, P.O. Box 957 Bennington, VT 05201.



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Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Feb. 26, 2015
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