Harriet B. McConnell, age 93, of 21 Cayuga Street, died on Friday, September 3, 2004 at Lakeside Nursing Home after a brief illness.
Harriet was born in Shaoxing, China on January 5, 1911, the second of four daughters born to Claude and Grace Barlow. Her father was a Baptist missionary-surgeon. She was educated at Shanghai American School. As conflict among competing warlords in China increased in the late 1920’s, missionary life became unsafe and the family returned to the United States in 1928 where she finished high school. Her father was then contracted by the Egyptian Ministry of Health to study and eradicate schistosomiasis and the family relocated to Egypt where Harriet entered the American University of Cairo (AUC). She and her older sister were the first female graduates of that institution. In 1931 she became engaged to John W. McConnell of Philadelphia, an instructor of economics at AUC. They were married in Germantown, PA in 1933.
She lived in New Haven, CT, Washington, DC, Englewood, NJ and in 1946 moved 5 young children to a big old house in Trumansburg, NY when her husband took a position at Cornell University in the new school of Industrial and Labor Relations. Harriet was a homemaker of great talent. She not only cooked the food, she grew it and canned it. She not only washed the clothes, she made them. She not only cleaned the house, she rebuilt it. She cared for her parents who lived next door. She encouraged the neighborhood children to play in the back yard and made sure that everyone played fairly. She maintained a sharp intellect, never talked down to children or adults, held firm beliefs about proper behavior and was a constructive presence at the Trumansburg Central School and the Trumansburg United Methodist Church.
In 1962 her husband became President of the University of New Hampshire. Although a private person and daunted by the public exposure involved in his position, she gradually made the role of President’s wife her own, humanizing the relationships between the university community and the President’s office with her wit and plain speaking in a time of academic turmoil.
Harriet and Jack returned to Trumansburg in 1971 and once again renovated their old home, making it a comfortable place to welcome family for visits. She earned a degree in practical nursing at age 60, and worked in the office of Dr. Stanley Gutelius, Trumansburg’s general practitioner. Harriet loved her husband, her family, her home, her garden, her church, the Philomathic Library and her neighbors. She grieved deeply after the loss of Jack in 1997 and spent many hours sitting on his tombstone giving him the latest news and seeking his advice. She fought against her progressive loss of physical strength in the last five years, conscious that there was still much she wanted to do and see.
Harriet left life as she lived it – with courage and determination. She is survived by her youngest sister, Elizabeth Davids of Charles Town, WV, her children, Janet (John) Alexander of Old Town, ME, Kathleen (David) Mervin of Arnside, Cumbria, UK, Grace (Dan) Clark of Boulder, CO, Judith (Henry) Sondheimer of Denver, CO, and John (Marjorie) McConnell of Wyckoff, NJ; 9 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her many friends and neighbors whom she considered her family.
The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00pm on Friday, September 10, at the Ness-Sibley Funeral Home, 23 South Street, Trumansburg. A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, September 11, 2004 at the Trumansburg United Methodist Church, officiated by Reverend Robyn Wernham. Interment will be held at Grove Cemetery in Trumansburg.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Harriet’s name may be directed to the Trumansburg United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 628 or the Ulysses Philomathic Library, P.O. Box 705, Trumansburg, NY 14886.
For additional information please contact the funeral home at 1-888-534-5446.