Harriet Lucile Gelinas

Harriet Lucile Gelinas

Born in Des Lacs N. Dakota, April 18, 1919 died in San Francisco, March 20, 2013. At one year of age Harriet and her brother Milton traveled by Model-T to live in Parkdale Oregon. She grew up on an apple & pear farm in a house without electricity. In '41 Harriet used her first paycheck to buy her mother a present - she hooked their house up to the electrical grid. As a teen in 4-H she won first prize demonstrating how to make an Angel Food cake. After a brief brush with packaged processed foods in the '60s Harriet permanently went organic in the '70s shopping at hippie co-ops in the Haight, scooping fresh peanut butter out of vats and into jars she brought from home. She pickled and put up jam annually. Her "SF heatwave" dinner was baked beans with a slab of bacon, sliced beefsteak tomatoes, potato salad with sweet pickle and fresh peach cobbler with vanilla ice-cream all made from scratch. She lived for strawberry season - the last 2 weeks of April and first 2 weeks of May - no more no less. An accomplished seamstress Harriet created her prom formals in the '30s, tailored business suits in the '50s and matching paisley outfits for her daughters in the '60s. To de-stress from raising three wildly independent teenage girls in the '70s, she took up upholstery. Her burnt orange velvet love seat is a masterpiece. Mamouth College (WOU) class of '41 - she taught for one year in a one room school house in Burns Oregon. Mapquest it. In '42 she fled to the Mohave Desert to work on a "secret project" for the Dept. of the Army. Loose lips sink ships - Harriet kept hers tight. Weekends she stayed with her Uncle Doc & Aunt Ann in Santa Monica often taking the streetcar to Venice Beach where there was always something going on. In 1950, together with her mother, Harriet joined her sister Hazel in San Francisco. She lived at a women's boarding house on Bush St. Unbeknownst to Harriet Bush St. was also home to many high class brothels. She was not amused by Herb Caen's line from the '50s "is your sister married or does she live on Bush St.?" While working at Fireman's Fund on Laurel Hill she encountered a co-worker named Bernie who would finish his work quickly and cruise around the office chatting. Harriet decided that for once she was going to meet someone. When Harriet's boss told Bernie's boss that Bernie was interfering with Harriet's productivity they decided it was time to marry, quit their jobs and be productive for themselves. For 46 years they worked together, each doing what they did best, starting with coin op laundries, a couple bars and eventually becoming successful San Francisco landlords. In 1960 they got off the L-Taravel at 26th Avenue and stayed. They had wonderful neighbors. Their bucket list: visit every National Park and bring home laminated place mats. After Bernie's death, Harriet completed the pilgrimage (Glacier) with Mary. Three daughters: Carol Spohn (Mike), Susan Phelan, Mary Painter (Mike), four grandchildren: Brendan Spohn, Zoe Littman, Amanda Painter McGarry (David), & Nathan Painter. Discretely, and never for adulation, Harriet was a generous woman ensuring that her grandchildren received the best educations possible. A lifelong Roosevelt "new deal" democrat, Harriet enjoyed 8 years of "Bushisms" daily calendars - but not as much as she would have enjoyed someone else being president. Donations may be made to Western Oregon University, Maxine S. Enney ('42) Memorial Scholarship, established by Harriet in memory of her sister.


Friends are invited to attend the Funeral service on Saturday (tomorrow) 1:00 pm at DUGGAN's FUNERAL SERVICE, 3434 Seventeenth Street (nr Valencia) Committal Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.

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Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 22, 2013