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In memoriam: Helen Hartman, 1908-2007


Uncle Paul called last night to let me know that Grandma had died a little after 6 p.m., Washington time.Grandma on cell phone

As Paul noted, she was eight days short of 99 and a half years old.

The year she was born, 1908, was the year the first Model T Ford was produced. The forerunner to the FBI was founded. That was the year of the first ball drop in Times Square for New Year's, and the year that the Grand Canyon was named a National Monument (later it became a National Park). The Wright Brothers' first test flights had been only four years earlier. The first American radio broadcasts were right around that time.

So Grandma lived through a lot of big changes. (Social as well as technological, of course.) And adapted to them; one of my favorite recent photos of her is this one of her talking on a cell phone for the first time, a few days before her 97th birthday.

I'm normally a "rage, rage, against the dying of the light" kind of guy. But in this case, it comforts me to know that Grandma died peacefully, when she was ready, surrounded by loving family and friends.

Here's another photo of her, taken by my Uncle David in 2003. (Note to LJ users: as usual, the photos in this entry look better in my journal page than in the LJ feed.)

Grandma at homePaul told me last night that Grandma's mother, known to the family as Grandma Hanson, the one who said "People are funnier than anybody," spent the last nine years of her life in a coma. I'm glad that Grandma Hartman didn't linger in the state she's been in these past few days.

But I'm nonetheless sad to see her go. I'll miss her.

I'd like to write a little more about her life, but the definitive reference work (a few chapters of autobiography/memoir that she wrote over the past few years) is at home, so I'll wait to say more 'til I get home.

There'll be a memorial or two sometime soon; not sure when. And as I noted the other day, the 100th-birthday party will still be happening, in late January. We can still celebrate her life even now that she's gone.


Condolences. It sounds like your grandma had a long and fascinating life and didn't suffer too long at the end, about as much as as any of us can hope for.

I'm sorry for your loss, Jed, and glad that it sounds like things went well for her. The 100th birthday party sounds like a great idea.

It is a rare thing these days to die well and comfortably, and it always makes me happy to hear when someone was able to do so. I'm sorry you have lost your grandmother, but very glad to hear she had a peaceful and loving send-off after a long and full life.

My condolences to you and your family.

I'm so sorry to hear this. It's probably not so much comfort, but it's good that she died peacefully and surrounded by those she loved.

My condolences to you and your family.

Hugs, hugs and more hugs. I'm sorry to hear that she's gone, but I am glad that she was able to live such a long and vibrant life.

Dear Jed, I'm so sorry for your loss. Though I know you will miss her, it is wonderful that she wrote an autobiography.

*big hug* and lots of love

Thank you for the notes, all. (Both here and in email.)

My brother Jay posted a lovely memorial entry that y'all should go read.

Is that your father's smile I see on her face in that second picture? She sounds like a delightful person. I'm glad she slipped away so easily; sad that you'll have to be without her.

I'm so sorry, Jed. I'm glad that her passing was peaceful.

Hey Jed--I'm sorry for the loss, she sounds like a wonderful woman. I'm glad her passing was peaceful, and your last statement about celebrating her life says it all!!


I'm sorry for your loss. Your grandmother looks wonderful and vibrant in the photos, and I'm glad she had only a short illness before going. I hope her genes are prominent in your own code -- it sounds like she got great plasm for a long and fabulous life!

I wish my family had had a 100th birthday party for my grandmother (another Helen!), who died in 2003 at 97. It would've been a nifty thing. Good on your family for continuing to have it!

I'm so sorry, Jed. It sounds like your grandma had a very full life with good health and a loving family that she was able to enjoy as long as possible. I suppose that's all any of us can ask for, but I don't think that makes it any easier. My thoughts and my sympathies are with you and your family.

Condolences to you, and bravo to your grandmother, who clearly lived with great spirit.

My grandma died this year too. I miss her.

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