SHELBURNE - Harriet was born in Holland, Mich., on May 8, 1922. Her parents were Mary Chapman Drew and Charles Drew. Harriet's mother died shortly after her birth. Later, her stepmother was Jeannette Schaap Drew.
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Harriet attended school in Holland and was graduated from Holland High School in 1944. She attended Western Michigan University for three years. This was during wartime, and she left college to marry Joseph Elstner in January 1943. Their first child, Joseph Charles, was born in 1944. At the time of his birth, her husband was taking part in the invasion at Normandy Beach as a lieutenant in the Navy.
After his return to civilian life, they lived in Kansas City, Mo., for six years. They were both active in church and especially the choir. Their two other sons, Mark and Chris, were born in Kansas City.
The family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1950 when her husband took a position in the home office of what was then Bankers Life Co. of Iowa. Harriet was busy with her family but also finished her college education and earned a degree in education at Drake University in Des Moines. She received her degree in 1962, the same year as her oldest son received his high school diploma. She taught elementary classes in Des Moines for five years before moving with her husband to Bloomington, Ill., where she continued to teach.
In 1969, they moved to Montpelier, when her husband accepted a position at National Life Insurance Co. home office. Harriet taught one year at Williamstown and then moved into the Montpelier school system where she taught fifth-graders for 15 years before retiring in 1985.
One of the things she was proud of was starting field trips for fifth-graders to such places as Boston and Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. This project was continued for several years. She felt good about giving many children that opportunity when some would never have had that chance.
After she and her husband retired, they spent 12 summers as guides at Shelburne Museum. They were enthusiastic about the museum and what it offered.
In 1996, they moved to Burlington and began to learn about life in a condo. In 1997, after her husband Joseph's death, Harriet decided on a change. She began to volunteer as a tour guide at Shelburne Farms. She had such a love for the farm and was so proud of all they had accomplished there. She often remarked that it was such a happy place to be. She especially loved having the privilege to work as a volunteer in the archives there.
Harriet was a member of College Street Congregational Church and also belonged to the Burlington Garden Club. Her interests were in gardening, reading, sewing and learning all she could about her computer.
Her family meant everything to her - her three sons and daughters-in-law, her eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Although they did not all live nearby, she kept in close touch and rejoiced in all their accomplishments.
She is survived by her three sons and their wives, Joe and Diane, Mark and Lisa, and Chris and Paula; her grandchildren, Lisa and Mark Huber, Erin and Henry Burden, Andrew Elstner, Trina and Anthony Cintron, Alyssa and Patrick Howson, David, Sean and Colin Elstner; her brother Dale Drew; and by many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her father and stepmother; her sister, Betty Brust; her brother Charles; a sister-in-law, Betty Drew; and by her husband, Joseph.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, VT 05482.
A memorial service to be held at a later date will be announced.
Arrangements are in the care of the Cremation Society of Chittenden County, a division of the Ready Family, Burlington. To send online condolences to the family, please visit www.cremationsocietycc.com.
Published in Times Argus on Dec. 13, 2012