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April 24, 2004 1:10 am

DEDICATION AND determination are quali- ties shared by the four women and one man who are the 2004 additions to the Fredericksburg Wall of Honor: Hattie Howard Brown, Emily White Fleming, Susie Peach Foster, Dr. Kurt F. Leidecker and Annie Fleming Smith.

They also shared a common goal--to make Fredericksburg a better place. Most living into their 80s, they were devoted to their causes to the end of their long lives.

The official unveiling of their names will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St. The Wall of Honor is located at the rear of the council chambers. All interested persons are invited to attend.

Dedicated in 2000, the Wall of Honor recognizes citizens deceased at least five years, who have made outstanding contributions to Fredericksburg. Each year the Fredericksburg Memorial Advisory Commission selects five names from nominations, with documentation received from the public. Those nominated need not be famous. Nomination forms are available from the clerk of City Council at City Hall (372-1010).

Here are some highlights of the lives of this year's honorees:

On March 25, 1955, the woman described in The Free Lance-Star as "Fredericksburg's leading Negro humanitarian" was the subject of a "This is My Life" pageant.

She was Hattie Howard Brown, who listened as dozens of city officials, educators and religious leaders, family and friends gathered to honor her achievements as teacher, homemaker, mother and community activist.

Typical of the praise from Fredericksburgers were these words by Commissioner of the Revenue George L. Hunter Jr.: "If we had more citizens like Mrs. Brown, willing to give of their time and energy as she has done during her span of years, this would be a much better community to live in."

Her life, which began in Fredericksburg on Sept. 20, 1883, was depicted during the Progressors Social Club's annual talent show at Walker-Grant School.

Community leaders praised her as a longtime member of the board of directors of the Fredericksburg Chapter of the American Red Cross. When there was a family death or sickness, she located and notified Fredericksburg-area black military personnel and arranged for their travel home.

In 1949 Hattie Brown headed a team that raised hundreds of dollars for the new Mary Washington Hospital on Fall Hill Avenue. She collaborated with local businessman Benjamin Pitts to provide shoes to area needy families, free movie passes to those who did well in school and goodie bags at Christmas.

Hattie Brown also was a volunteer with the Fredericksburg Welfare Department, distributing food and clothing to those in need. She was active in the Tuberculosis Association and was president of the Walker-Grant Parent-Teacher Association.

She was a charter member of Venus Temple, Daughter Elks, and a member of the Celesta Chapter, Order of Eastern Star.

The audience heard how the daughter of Essex and Amanda Howard began her teaching career following graduation from Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, now Virginia State University. Until her death she was an active member of her alma mater's alumnae association.

She taught at Brooke and Hill Town schools in Stafford County and later became the first black female teacher in the Fredericksburg public school system.

Her husband, Arthur Brown Jr., and their five children, three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter listened with pride. One grandchild was Carole Johnson Hamm, who nominated her beloved grandmother to the Wall of Honor and described her as a pioneer feminist.

They and the rest of the audience recalled her devotion to Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site), where she was deaconess, superintendent of Sunday school, president of the Missionary Society and founder of the Young Women's Club. She was a frequent delegate to several state church conventions and a secretary of the Rappahannock Sunday School Union, which included many area churches.

Hattie Howard Brown died on April 16, 1976, at the age of 83.

Her funeral at Shiloh (New Site) was another time to pay tribute to her remarkable life. She was buried in Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery.

Today her memory is kept alive by her large and loving family, who, with one exception, all reside in the Fredericksburg area. Hattie Brown's descendants include five living grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; 14 great-great-grandchildren, and four great-great-great grandchildren.

Susie Peach Foster, Methodist deaconess, missionary, campus minister and social worker, arrived in Fredericksburg in 1945 to become the first director of the Wesley Foundation at Mary Washington College.

She also would become a major force in the local and state civil-rights movements and had a vital role in the Head Start program. A longtime associate and friend wrote: "Miss Foster envisioned one world of unity in diversity and encouraged those about her to share their gifts with others."

"Susie Peach," as the tiny but forceful woman was known, was born in 1906 in Havana, Ala., the daughter of the Rev. Robert A. and Abbie Peach Foster. Her extensive education included a bachelor of arts degree from Huntingdon College in Alabama and a master of arts degree from Scarritt College, with further studies at Union Theological Seminary and Emory and Columbia universities.

Her arrival in Fredericksburg was preceded by 10 years of mission work in Korea and posts in a settlement house in Chicago and the Woman's Division of the Board of Missions in Nashville.

In Fredericksburg, she went to work right away, spearheading fund raising to purchase land and erect the Wesley Foundation Building on Dandridge Street. While it was under construction, her apartment on College Avenue was the meeting place for the Wesley Foundation, the Methodist Student Association. (Today the Wesley Foundation building is the ecumenical Campus Christian Center.)

Soon after she came to Fredericksburg, Susie Peach Foster made many friends in both the white and black communities. She established a social group of black teens and adults, together with college students.

By the 1950s this became an enlarged interracial group, "The Community Fellowship." It was the beginning of what became a part of the Virginia Council on Human Relations and then, locally, the Fredericksburg Council on Human Relations.

In the 1960s Susie Peach Foster was instrumental in the opening of Fredericksburg lunch counters to blacks and the integration of James Monroe High School. She helped establish the Ann Hamrick House, which gave Mary Washington students opportunities to learn child care.

She was the winner of the 1962 Alumnae Achievement Award of Huntingdon College. The following year, after 18 years in Fredericksburg, she became director of the Wilson Inn, a boarding home for girls in Richmond, sponsored by the Methodist Women of Virginia.

Susie Peach Foster died at the age of 89 on April 13, 1995, at the Brooks Howell Home for Deaconesses in Asheville, N.C. She donated her body to science.

Her name lives on in the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's Susie Peach Foster Circle and in the Susie Peach Foster Endowment Fund of the Mary Washington College Campus Christian Community.

Dr. Kurt F. Leidecker's spirit is an unseen but powerful presence at the Religious Freedom Monument on the Washington Avenue Mall.

Founder of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for the Study of Religious Freedom, he began the tradition of annual services at the Religious Freedom Monument and was responsible for its relocation to its present prominent location.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute was but one of the many achievements of the Mary Washington College professor who was known throughout the world as a scholar, philosopher, author and humanitarian. His academic specialty was Oriental thought, including the cultural and intellectual relationships between the Orient and the West.

At age 19, Kurt Leidecker already was an avid scholar when, in 1921, he arrived in the United States from his native Germany with a trunk full of books. Becoming a U.S. citizen in 1927, he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Oberlin College and his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and the months following, Leidecker compiled a two-volume German-English technical dictionary of aeronautics, which was used as a basic text in starting the U.S. space program. Always patriotic, he was a longtime member of the American Legion.

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.

Young Emily White Fleming, a native of Georgia, arrived in Fredericksburg in 1880. She soon became immersed in local history, interviewing townspeople who had known the Washingtons and researching local places associated with the Washington family. In 1921 she published a booklet, "Historic Periods of Fredericksburg."

Fredericksburg history was a family affair for the Flemings. Emily's husband, Vivian Minor Fleming of Hanover County, was the founder of the Eagle Shoe Co. in Fredericksburg. A Confederate veteran and author of the book "Campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia," he was one of three war commissioners who mapped out the Fredericksburg battlefields for the National Park Service.

Their daughter, Annie, born in 1883, grew up sharing her parents' enthusiasm for local history. Years later, when she was known near and far simply as "Miss Annie," she would write of her mother's roles in preserving Fredericksburg's historic attractions including Kenmore, Mary Washington Monument, Mary Washington House, Rising Sun Tavern, James Monroe Museum and Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop.

In spite of naysayers, Emily Fleming also successfully spearheaded the drive for the first Mary Washington Hospital on Sophia Street.

"I remember," wrote Miss Annie, "once my mother came home weeping. She said that Judge Wallace shook his head when he met her on the street and said, 'You poor benighted little woman.'"

Thanks to the "benighted little woman," the hospital was built and prospered.

Emily Fleming's crowning achievement came in 1922 when Kenmore was about to be razed or made into apartments.

"I am old and deaf," she said, "but I would die happy if Kenmore could be saved."

To raise Kenmore's $30,000 purchase price, she formed the Washington-Lewis Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and later the independent Kenmore Association.

Mother and daughter financed Kenmore's purchase and its early repair, upkeep and furnishings with lawn socials, speeches, card parties, and bake and rummage sales.

Miss Annie remembered: "I can see my 69-year-old mother now, my son Horace, a servant and myself riding on an ice cream truck at five o'clock in the morning over bad roads to clear $500 at a lawn social."

Miss Annie had learned a lot about public relations from her New York World journalist husband, Horace Herbert Smith. She traveled around the country persuading wealthy patrons--including presidents, governors and senators--to give money and time to Kenmore.

Before World War II, she motored 25,000 miles a year lecturing on Kenmore. Melissa Smith Fitzgerald of Reston, who is active in Fredericksburg preservation circles, described her grandmother in action: "She was assertive and charming and audacious, as pushy as her mother was reserved."

She became so well-known that she received mail addressed simply to "Miss Annie, Fredericksburg."

She used newspapers all over the state to raise matching funds and provide free publicity for Kenmore.

One of Miss Annie's most inspired ideas was the sale of Mary Ball Washington's gingerbread recipe to Dromedary, which used it to make a gingerbread mix. Kenmore received all the gingerbread mix it wanted free of charge and served it in the Colonial kitchen until recent years.

During World War II, 600,000 service men and women were served tea and gingerbread at Kenmore. Miss Annie also welcomed hundreds of them for weekend suppers at her home on Hanover Street. As a result, she was named Good Neighbor for the Day by NBC's "Breakfast at Sardi's."

Emily Fleming was president of Kenmore, serving until 1940, the year before her death. Miss Annie became secretary, then director, a post she held until 1954.

Honors came to both mother and daughter. In 1932, Fleming received a medal for her assistance to the George Washington Bicentennial Commission. When she died, on Oct. 12, 1941, Douglas Southall Freeman wrote: "She did as much as any single individual to preserve Fredericksburg in its picturesque beauty."

Miss Annie was listed in the first edition of Marquis' "Who's Who of American Women"; was cited by the National Antique Show in 1947 as one of 10 persons outstanding in preserving American culture; and was named "First Lady of Fredericksburg" in 1949. She was a founder and a director of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc.

Miss Annie died on Feb. 25, 1962. She rests beside her mother and others of her family in the Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery.

A Free Lance-Star editorial said: "'Miss Annie' gave of herself, body and soul, to selling Kenmore and Fredericksburg. This city has never had--and perhaps never will have--a more determined salesman working for it than 'Miss Annie' Smith."

BARBARA CROOKSHANKS is a freelance writer living in Fredericksburg.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.