Milestones November 2015


CoitAnna Palmer North Coit, 106, on October 15, 2014, in Mystic, Conn. Anna was born on April 8, 1908, in New York City, the oldest child of Amelia Palmer and Dr. Charles North, and grew up in Montclair, N.J., learning about Friends from her grandmother. After graduating from Vassar College in 1930, she worked at Time magazine as a researcher, eventually becoming the magazine’s first woman writer. In 1941 she wrote the cover story on Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, and her article on women working in factories during the war appears in Time: 85 Years of Great Writing. She married Harlan “Pete” Coit, a decorated Navy fighter pilot, in 1945, and they lived in Seattle, Wash., before buying an old farmhouse in Stonington, Conn., in 1952 and beginning a Christmas-tree farm. Anna worked as a teacher and librarian at Pine Point School in Stonington from 1959 to 1974.

Pete died in 1978, and she joined Westerly (R.I.) Meeting in 1979, serving as assistant recording clerk for ten years. The small arrangements of flowers or dried plants she brought to meeting often became a focus of meditation for Friends. She represented the meeting at quarterly and yearly meeting regularly even in her 70s. She founded the North Stonington Historical Society, Walter Palmer (genealogical) Society, North Stonington Garden Club, and Avalonia Land Trust. She wrote her local historical society’s monthly newsletter, contributed articles to other historical society newsletters, and donated manuscripts and family treasures to the New London County Historical Society and Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

When renewing her driver’s license at 99, in answer to the clerk’s question as to whether she preferred the four-year or the eight-year renewal, she answered, “I think I will go with eight.” She had more and more friends as she grew older. Children who had been in her fifth-grade classes in the ’60s and ’70s visited her in her last years. She lived on the farm and sold Christmas trees until hip surgery complications incapacitated her in 2013 and she moved to a rehab center and nursing home. She still attended regular lunches at the historical society in a wheelchair-accessible van that a friend borrowed for her. Mostly confined to her room, she had visitors every day and kept busy reading (she never gave up her New Yorker subscription) and writing poems. She always had a yellow legal pad at her elbow, and she wrote more than a hundred poems in her last year, publishing a small book of poems on her 106th birthday. In 2014, she recapitulated her 1914 attendance at a parade commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Stonington militia’s 1814 victory over the British Navy when she was made grand marshal of the 200th anniversary parade. A standing-room-only crowd attended a reading of her poems at the Mystic Art Association three weeks before her death.

She was the oldest alumna of Vassar College. But her long life is not what set her apart; it was the intelligence, wit, generosity, sense of community, and spirit that she kept right to the end of her life. Originally not wanting a service after her death, she relented and told her cousin to “Call the Friends; they’ll know what to do,” and more than 250 attended Westerly Meeting’s memorial service. A Friend read a poem she had written just a day or two before her death, “Heaven.” Although Anna and Pete had no children, many who spoke at her memorial service considered her a surrogate mother or grandmother. Ever practical and wise, and aware of just how rare a 106-year-old body might be, Anna donated her remains to Yale School of Medicine. Her spirit, however, is with us still.

FowlerEarl Leslie Fowler, 93, on February 3, 2015, in Sandy Spring, Md. Earl was born on July 1, 1921, in Albany, Ga. His father’s job as a soil scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture took the family to the northern Midwest during the warm months and to the South in the fall and winter, so that until Earl was out of grade school, he never spent a full year in one school. But his grade school years set the course of his life when he read a story in dialog—a play—and thought to himself, “I can do that.” Once, as the only child in his grade, he was placed with the next grade, so that he finished high school at 16 but chose to stay in high school another year because of his youth. At Earlham College, he wrote an anti-war play that was performed at the school, at Friends churches in the area, and on a radio station in Fort Wayne, Ind., with Earl performing the voices of all the characters and the sound effects. He played Hamlet as the high point of his college career in theater.

He did alternative service in World War II at a camp and hospital in Cooperstown, N.Y. After the war, he represented Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.) in the American Friends Service Committee workcamp movement in Europe, taking his first airplane flight as part of the Berlin airlift. He coordinated workcamp relief efforts in Germany, where he met Ulla Gräsbeck. They married in 1953 in Vasa, Finland, and joined Earl’s father on his Georgia farm. Earl helped on the farm and continued his writing, working with the local civic theater in Albany, Ga. He began work as librarian at Westtown School in 1957, adding more than 19,000 volumes and audio-visual materials and equipment. Acting in several faculty plays, he found that his role as the tyrannical Father Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street seemed to make students afraid to come into the library. He also taught religion and directed student and faculty productions, perhaps most memorably his own adaptation, with Ulla as advisor, of the national epic of Finland, The Kalevala, incorporating music from Sibelius and projecting backdrops of student film and graphic art. He oversaw a weekend film festival at Westtown for many years, attended a film course in the late ’60s at State University of New York at Albany, and taught a filmmaking course at Westtown from 1972 until he retired in 1987.

Earl and Ulla moved back to the farm in Georgia and spent the summer months in Finland. During his last 15 years, he once again turned to playwriting. Several well-known Washington, D.C., actors staged a reading of The King of the Golden Mountain, his play drawing on his experience as a young man working on a farm in Connecticut. He completed his final play, The Crippled Line, when he was 92, with the help of his son Fred. A cast including his son Chris and two former students staged readings of the play at Friends House in Sandy Spring and at Friends Meeting of Washington. Faculty and students had cherished the four o’clock afternoon coffees in the Scandinavian tradition at his and Ulla’s house, and he made lifelong friends wherever he went. Even at the end of his life, a seat at his dinner table at Friends House was much sought after. Earl was preceded in death by his wife, Ulla Gräsbeck Fowler, in 2001. He is survived by his sons, Chris Fowler and Fred Fowler.

HarringtonAvery Robert Harrington, 83, on July 9, 2014, in Brunswick, Maine. Avery was born on April 6, 1931, in Philadelphia, Pa., to parents who were members of Lansdowne (Pa.) Meeting. He attended Lansdowne Friends School for a time before transferring to a grade school in his home town of Drexel Hill, Pa., where he became friends with a little girl named Carolyn Beckenbaugh. He attended William Penn Charter School and Swarthmore College, both of which further imprinted Quaker testimonies, and enjoyed attending weekend workcamps run by David Richie in the inner city. While finishing his first year of medical school at University of Pennsylvania, Avery met Carolyn again. She also had been a Richie workcamper, and the two found many shared dreams and values. They married two years later and after his internship went to Arizona for Avery to serve with the Indian Health Service on the Chemehuevi and Navajo Reservations, worshiping 30 miles away in Gallup (N.M.) Meeting. Avery decided to learn a specialty, and the little family moved to Hanover, N.H., where Hanover Meeting welcomed them warmly, supplying their immediate needs when they arrived in 25-below-zero weather without furniture. After attending for several years, he and Carolyn joined the meeting.

When his training was complete, the family moved to Madison, Wis., for his work teaching about kidney disease at University of Wisconsin, and attended Madison Meeting. He taught First-day school to the teenagers, who dramatized the Joseph story and other Bible stories. When their youngest child went off to school, he and Carolyn volunteered for a year of service overseas and worked in a rural health center in Zimbabwe, finding it a rare treat to visit Quaker meetings in the cities of Bulawayo and Harare. Because University of Wisconsin ruled out further leaves of absence, Avery took a job in Maine at the Waterville Hospital dialysis unit, returning to Zimbabwe three more times over the next 15 years, and the family attended Vassalboro (Maine) Meeting. His and Carolyn’s three daughters, whom Avery had delivered, married in the manner of Friends (Lucy in a half-Jewish ceremony) and produced five grandchildren well aware of their Quaker heritage. Avery served as treasurer of Vassalboro Meeting until the couple retired to Brunswick, Maine.

Vassalboro Meeting held a celebration of his life and placed his ashes in the new Memorial Garden. When remembering Avery, Vassalboro Friends often speak of his gentle nature, his integrity, and his desire to serve. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Beckenbaugh Harrington; three children, Marcia Harrington (Jake Plante), Sheila Harrington (Scott Johnson), and Lucy Harrington (Gus Schwed); five grandchildren; and one brother, Louis Harrington.

PainterRobert Henry Painter, 92, on January 28, 2015, at Fountain View Retirement Village in Grant, Mich. Bob was born on May 12, 1922, to Quakers Margaret Harden and Levinson Painter in South Stocksborough, Vt., where his father had been called to be a peacemaker among three churches. After his mother died, Bob attended Westtown School, graduating in 1940. He then attended Earlham College, where he met his future wife, Phyllis Greene, on the tennis court. He was a conscientious objector during the 1940s, serving three years as a smokejumper and forest firefighter, primarily stationed near Missoula, Mont. His father married Phyllis and Bob in Dayton, Ohio. After his marriage his last assignment in Civilian Public Service was as a crewmember on a cattle boat taking horses to Poland. He attended Jefferson Medical College, graduating in 1950; served an internship in Buffalo, N.Y.; and completed his residency in internal medicine in Danville, Pa. He and fellow conscientious objector Dr. Ziegle worked in a hospital near Colburn, Colo., in a cooperative medical practice run by the railroad. He then served as a country doctor in Grant, Mich., for 18 years and as a family physician in Lakeview, Mich., for 15 years. He ended his medical career as an anesthesiologist in Greenville, Mich., particularly proud of the fact that as a doctor he had brought over 3,000 babies into the world.

Bob was a member of Pine River Meeting in Mount Pleasant, Mich., attended Grand Rapids (Mich.) Meeting, and helped with the establishment of Fremont (Mich.) Worship Group. He attended activities at Earlham College throughout his life and took part in Friends General Conference, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting, and Green Pastures Quarterly Meeting gatherings. He was a volunteer football physician, village councilmember, and mayor in Grant; trustee at Montcalm Community College for 22 years; and longtime Rails to Trails advocate and board member. He and Phyllis were sailors, campers, fierce tennis players, and accomplished skiers and ski patrol volunteers, and they traveled the world.

Bob is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Phyllis Greene Painter; three children, Dale Painter (Kathy), Joyce Demink (Ron), and Trish Painter (Ken Beck); four grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Memorial donations can be directed to Montcalm Community College, 2800 College Drive, Sidney, MI 48885.

StuckeyRoy Joe Stuckey, 87, on November 16, 2014 in Tucson, Ariz. Roy Joe was born on February 16, 1927, in Albuquerque, N.M,, the first of two children to Elizabeth Morgan and Joseph L. Stuckey. He grew up on the family farm near Wilmington, Ohio, was active in 4-H Club and youth organizations, and developed fine herds of Jersey cattle with his parents and sister, June. He graduated from Wilmington High School in 1945 and attended Wilmington College. There he met S. Arthur Watson, its president, and helped him fulfill his dream of founding an agriculture program that is still thriving today. His Spanish professor was M. Elsie McCoy, who planted the dream of travel in Spanish-speaking countries. She also steered him to the Fellowship of Reconciliation and further interest in Quakerism.

In 1948 he graduated and married classmate Ruth Starbuck, an Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friend from Salem, Ohio. On a 1957 sabbatical, he visited the Quaker community in Monteverde, Costa Rica, with his family. He was a founding member of Campus Meeting in Wilmington and a clerk of Wilmington Yearly Meeting. In 1966, he worked at Drexel Institute of Technology, and the family spent a year at Quaker study center Pendle Hill, near Philadelphia, Pa. He and Ruth led over 28 educational tours to Mexico and Costa Rica, and he became a sojourning member of Monteverde Meeting.

He taught at Wilmington College while earning a master’s and doctorate from Ohio State University, continuing to develop dairy cattle herds. He became director of development and vice president for institutional relations before leaving to be president of Jamestown College (now called University of Jamestown). He also worked in development in St. Louis, Mo., for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and began a retirement facility, Cypress Village, in Jacksonville, Fla.

In 1989, he retired, and he and Ruth traveled extensively in Europe, Russia, China, Asia, Japan, New Zealand, and India, where they visited Right Sharing of World Resources projects. Roy Joe’s love of Wilmington College never wavered, and he was at his passing still a member of its board of trustees. He wrote a pamphlet, Quaker Quality, about his early work, and two books, Agriculture at Wilmington College: Sixty Years and Beyond and Big Gifts to Wilmington College in Three Centuries. He was a visionary who inspired others by communicating his belief in their potential and by celebrating their accomplishments. His intensity of focus and resolve was especially evident when he founded the Lytle Creek League of Conservators (LCLC), which seeks to preserve green space for a trail along Lytle Creek, which meanders through Wilmington College, for public enjoyment. In his final retirement years, he helped establish the Arizona Friends Community in the high desert near Douglas, Ariz.

During the memorial events celebrating his life, a Friend said that he was “a messenger of gratitude,” a fitting description because he was constantly expressing thanks to all around him, and Friends continue to give thanks for his life. Roy Joe is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth Starbuck Stuckey; four children, Joseph Stuckey (Jean), John Stuckey (Anne), Mary Newswanger (Elias), and Rebecca Howarth; ten grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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