Leah Rae Alexander
Leah Alexander, age 82, passed away peacefully on August 19, 2017. She was born in Fairmont, Minnesota on February 14, 1935. She was the only child of Leroy and Dagmar (Sorenson) McClement, the former a railroad stationmaster, the latter a schoolteacher. She graduated from Central High School in St. Paul and then earned a BA degree from Vassar College (1957). At Vassar and also during her junior year abroad at Queen's University in Belfast, she studied British and American Literature. Her senior thesis, later published as a book, was a study of Henry James' characterization of his heroines.
In 1958, the year she married Edward Alexander and became Leah Alexander, she became a tenth-grade English teacher at Central High School in Minneapolis In 1959 she was appointed a teaching assistant at University of Minnesota. In 1961-62, now a mother, she taught at the U.S. Airforce School in Teddington, England.
Leah had a powerful, imaginative, and discerning literary mind, was a voracious reader, and in later years would be an active member of the Seattle Trollope Society as well as of Hadassah and other literary groups. She and her daughter (also a librarian) often exchanged ideas about new authors and titles, a private book group of two.
She served as librarian of the Seattle Hebrew Academy from 1979-81 and of the W. F. Albright Institute of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1983-85, when the family was living in Israel. She also became one of the chief activists in the Pacific Northwest working for the right of Russian Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union. (In December 1976 she was arrested and detained in Moscow by the KGB for her efforts.) She did all this while studying for her Masters degree in Librarianship at University of Washington and raising two children. Judy Balint, head of the Seattle Soviet Jewry movement, said of Leah: "Her voice was soft, but her will was like iron. And her sense of justice was formidable."
She was an expert knitter, a lover of gardens and nature, and a deft mender of broken things (from electricity and plumbing to troubles of the heart). She was a deeply loving and patient spouse and mother, and a steadfast friend. Despite the pain and illness of her last ten months, she retained her wry wit, and was able to enjoy time with family and friends.
Leah is survived by her husband Edward, her children Rebecca and David and their families, including grandson Philip, and great granddaughter Adalynn.
Donations in Leah's memory may be made to Medic One, Jewish National Fund, and the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at UW Botanic Gardens.
Published in The Seattle Times from Aug. 29 to Sep. 2, 2017.