Gertrude Knight Cleverdon 1914-2008Gertrude Knight Cleverdon was born in a 16-sided brick round house in Townsend, Massachusetts. When she was a youngster, her family moved to western Massachusetts for her father to take over the role of principal in a town slated for demolition to make room for the Quabbin Reservoir. His contract, she told people later, indicated his job would last “until such time as the town shall cease to exist.” At 94, Gertrude was among the few remaining survivors from the four towns razed in the creation of the Quabbin. Gertrude attended Cushing Academy in Ashburnham MA, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College, where she lived in the French House, and earned a Master of Arts in Library Science from the University of Michigan. After World War II, Gertrude and her husband David Knight settled in Dobbs Ferry NY, where they raised four children. In Dobbs Ferry Gertrude was an active member of the League of Women Voters, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Girls Scouts, the Home & School Association, the South Presbyterian Church, and the public library. She worked as an elementary school librarian in Westchester County Schools and was a children’s librarian in the White Plains Public Library. In 1979 Gertrude and David retired to Peterborough NH. Friends and family remember her as a gifted storyteller, a lover of New England history, an amateur botanist, an avid collector, an accomplished Scrabble player, and a great cook and master baker. As a docent of the Peterborough Historical Society and a volunteer at the Jaffrey Library, she was known as “Gramma C,” the lady in the apron with many colorful pockets full of storytelling props. She was a member and one of the original contributors towards the purchase of a meeting house for Monadnock Quaker Meeting. Children who grew up in the meeting in the years Gertrude attended knew her as a kindred spirit – someone who could always draw from her vast store of memorized poetry to recite a few lines appropriate to the moment. She took delight in all children, and was a special ally for those who marched to their own drum beat. She is remembered fondly for her cookie baking projects with the children at Meeting retreats.
What lives on after a person dies? There are many answers to that question, but one answer is "the things you give away." Many years ago the meeting used to have an annual wood stacking party at Gertrude Cleverdon's little house in Peterboro. Behind her house was a stream with an abundance of marsh marigolds. She loved those "cowslips" and encouraged Jim and I to take some home and plant them in our very wet back yard. We did. And year after year they come up. For many years we would make it a point to tell Gertrude when they bloomed, especially after she moved to the retirement community. Now each spring we remember Gertrude when they bloom and think of the joy she got from them.