The Mayor of Harrison Street
Every passing prompts sadness and reflection, but also regrets, and so it was last weekend that when I read Joe Holley's obituary of Kathleen Rubar Partridge, I was overwhelmed by my own failure to take the initiative to meet face to face a woman who had a century of experiences and thoughts to share.
Mrs. Partridge, who died last week at the age of 99, lived a block away from me and was known as the "Mayor of Harrison Street." I didn't know that when I first started receiving letters from her a few years ago.
Composed in a clear, elegant hand on her personal stationery, the letters took me to task when I equivocated and praised me generously when I took a clear and persuasive stance. Mrs. Partridge's letters were always polite, always passionate, and always took strong positions. She had no patience for half-measures.
She retained well into her nineties the righteous anger that drives involved and effective citizens and the humor that prevents such citizens from becoming shrill or tiresome.
In the past decade, as email has turned good old letterwriting into a pursuit practiced primarily by prisoners, pensioners and pests, I have come to cherish the occasional handwritten notes from intelligent and thoughtful readers. Mrs. Partridge's thick, creamy envelopes were always a joy to open.
"What terrible times we are living in!" she wrote in 2003. "I, who protested two wars, should not have to see this!
"So much is needed!"
A veteran of civil rights protests and an advocate for the homeless of Northwest Washington, Mrs. Partridge was appalled by the Bush Administration's cartoonish approach to fighting terrorism. But she was not exactly thrilled with the other party's alternatives: "The Dems are wimps," she wrote, and then she buttered me up with this: "If you ran for president, you would not fear to attack. You go to the point."
"No, I don't believe I'm crazy," she concluded one letter. "I'm just angry."
I'm angry that I didn't bestir myself to walk over one block and knock on her door. I wrote to Mrs. Partridge in response to each of her letters, and I told her how much I appreciated her thoughts and her reading the column, but I wish I had paid her a visit, just to let her know that she was not only a valued correspondent, but a neighbor and , yes, the revered Mayor of Harrison Street.
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Posted by: hogboss | August 29, 2006 10:34 AM
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