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The 2004 crop of honorees added to the Fredericksburg Wall of Honor made lifelong contributions to the community.

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Date published: 4/24/2004


He met future wife, journalist and teacher Helena Maria "Elsa" von Muller Leidecker, when he was a teacher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During the 1950s they traveled to India where he was a Fulbright Scholar researching Indian philosophy and religions. He was also cultural affairs consultant for the U.S. Embassy in Thailand and an instructor in the Foreign Service Institute and the Peace Corps.

Leidecker was the author of numerous books and scholarly articles, including textbooks on Sanskrit and scientific German and a definitive biography of American educator and philosopher William Torrey Harris.

The Leideckers came to Fredericksburg in 1948. A professor of philosophy at Mary Washington, he developed a strong Asian studies program reflecting his lifelong efforts to promote understanding between American and Oriental cultures. He also promoted unity between the city and the college.

The Leidecker home at 306 Caroline St. was a gathering place for visiting Asian dignitaries. It was filled with artifacts from their world travels. In the yard was an Oriental garden designed and maintained by Leidecker.

His establishment of the Thomas Jefferson Institute in 1974 commemorated the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which Thomas Jefferson drafted in Fredericksburg in 1777. Leidecker called the statute "a beacon to the people of Europe" expressing "tolerance for all."

In Fredericksburg, he was honored as recipient of Mary Washington College's Washington Medal and the Daughters of the American Revolution's Medal of Honor.

In his last days, Leidecker was busy cataloging his library and Oriental collection for the college's use. He died Nov. 17, 1991, at 89; Elsa Leidecker died Feb. 20, 1989, at 84. They willed their historic home to Mary Washington College.

The Mary Washington College Board of Visitors established the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies in his honor in 1998. The center supports interdisciplinary study of Asia and sponsors seminars, conferences and an annual lecture series. It also promotes academic and cultural exchange and public workshops.

Emily White Fleming and her daughter, Annie Fleming Smith, shared a lifelong commitment to a common cause: the preservation of Fredericksburg's history.

Their greatest triumph was the saving of Kenmore, the 18th-century home of George Washington's sister, Betty, and her husband, Col. Fielding Lewis.

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