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Harriet Janet Grenlie Forton

Forton, Harriet Janet Grenlie

Harriet Janet Grenlie Forton born in Chicago on September 12, 1933, to Lydia Dohnal Grenlie and Orin Grenlie, Harriet lived with enthusiasm, generosity, and compassion. A registered nurse with a Master's Degree in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University, Harriet worked for thirty years at a community mental health agency in the Chicago area, where she helped people with psychiatric difficulties find their way in life. She was tolerant, non-judgmental and understanding of all our foibles. Harriet's interests were abundant. She loved to dance (she really cut the rug as a young girl!) and sing (a special pleasure was singing barbershop with the Seven Valley Sweet Adeline Chorus). She very much enjoyed attending theatre and The Chicago Lyric Opera with her (predeceased) sister Arlene Grenlie Engberg. Harriet was an extravagant, gracious hostess whose dinner parties are legendary. Of course, she had a set of dishes appropriate for every occasion, whether it was Christmas or the Fourth of July. Also legendary is her shopping prowess. She liked nothing better than a shopping challenge, and could find the most obscure objects at the best price. Harriet quilted, played poker, and read widely, but her greatest joys were family and travel. She went scuba diving in the Caribbean in the early 1960's, and snorkeled with great sharks on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in the 80's. She was one of the first Western tourists to visit China in 1974, and she was in Moscow during Glasnost. She marveled at Monet's garden in Giverny and made friends on small islands in Greece. In 1972, she hosted an exchange student from France, thus expanding her family to include Ulysse Gosset, his parents and siblings, and later his wife, Eleanor Beardsley and their children. She is deeply loved by them. Her honorary family also includes Minae Kim, Kang Sung Lee and their children Yerang and Hyun-Jae Lee, in Korea. Minae says that Harriet gave her true mother love. Harriet sponsored Aye Than Mu, Aye Say Tar and Pocho, from Burma. Her love knew no boundaries. Harriet lavished her family with that unbounded, unconditional, exuberant affection. She is beloved, and will forever be missed, by daughter Patricia, husband David Warden and step-grandson, Gregory Warden; son, Steven and wife, Diane; grandson, Scott Forton; granddaughter, Nicole Kelso and husband David Kelso; great-grandchildren, Natalie and Danielle Kelso are Harriet's crowning joy in life. Harriet weathered tough times bravely, her philosophy being that "this, too, shall pass." She wore bright colors, bold jewelry and rakish hats. Skillful, caring Dr. Adam Law remarked that her last illness had a "flamboyant presentation," about which her good friends at McGraw House, Lillian Cohen and Beena Kulkowitz, laughed heartily. The expression so aptly captures Harriet's style. Harriet died peacefully on Saturday, December 8, 2012, in the company of her children, grateful for a wonderful life. Following her wishes, there will be a memorial service at McGraw House on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 2 p.m. Harriet and her family are indebted to all those who cared for her, especially the indefatigable Liane Dimarco. Throughout her life, Harriet practiced gratitude and generosity. To honor her, let us all do the same. Bangs Funeral Home is assisting the family.


Published in Ithaca Journal from Dec. 11, 2012 to Jan. 9, 2013
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