on May 18, 2013 - 6:39 PM
March 25, 1917 – May 9, 2013
Mary Ardelle Pitkin, a French teacher at Iroquois Central School in Elma from 1965 to 1992, died May 9 in Orchard Park. She was 96.
Mrs. Pitkin, known as “Dell,” was the daughter of Augustus Hunt Shearer, a University of Buffalo history professor, head of the Buffalo Grosvenor Library and founder of UB’s first Library Science program, and Inez Rogers Shearer, a well-known local artist and member of the Garret Club of Buffalo. Mrs. Pitkin was born in Evanston, Ill., but raised in Buffalo.
She graduated from the Park School of Buffalo in 1934. She first visited France with her family as a teenager, then attended the Sorbonne in Paris in 1937 while she was an undergraduate at Smith College, leading to a lifelong love for France and the French language.
After graduating from Smith with a bachelor’s degree in 1938, Mrs. Pitkin taught at the Park School and then at Ashley Hall in Charleston, S.C. In September 1939, she returned to France to begin work as a teacher, but was evacuated in November to escape the Nazi invasion.
On May 11, 1942, she married Lt. Cmdr. John Townsend Pitkin, a Navy flight surgeon whose postwar career as a psychiatrist concentrated on work with children. Her husband died in 1989.
Mrs. Pitkin was active in Eastern European refugee relief after the war.
The Pitkins lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1949 to 1957, and Mrs. Pitkin earned a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1954.
The family returned to Western New York, and from 1965 to 1992, Mrs. Pitkin taught French at Iroquois Central School, occasionally teaching classes in Latin and New York state history. She also taught French in adult education classes at East Aurora High School.
Mrs. Pitkin was a longtime member of the League of Women Voters and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of East Aurora, as well as the Ecumenical Book Club.
Mrs. Pitkin traveled extensively through the United States and Canada, as well as China, Austria and Italy and throughout Europe, especially France.
She is survived by four children, Anne, Sarah, Kit and Ben; and a brother, David H. Shearer.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.