Kathleen Rubar Partridge, 99; Community Activist, Gardener

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kathleen Rubar Partridge, 99, a lifelong community activist whose backyard garden at her home in the District was a source of great pride and spectacular roses, died Aug. 21 of congestive heart failure at the Washington Home hospice.

Often called "the mayor of Harrison Street," she lived in the same house just east of Wisconsin Avenue NW for 56 years. Out of the backyard wilderness she inherited when she moved into the house, she established a magnificent rose garden.

A former president of the African Violet Society, she also nurtured the enormous oaks in her yard, trees that provided a haven for birds and squirrels. One of the squirrels came every day, morning and evening, for the peanuts she fed it by hand. It's still coming, a granddaughter reported.

Mrs. Partridge was a community activist throughout her life, participating in civil rights protests in the 1960s and working as an advocate for the homeless. She was a founding board member of the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place.

She participated in the Neighborhood Watch program as a community liaison with the police department and as an officer with a Friendship Heights citizens group. She also made sure she was an informed voter in local and national elections.

Born in Croghan, N.Y., she grew up the eldest of seven children on a farm in Upstate New York. She recalled riding to school in a horse-drawn sleigh on snowy days. After graduating from a Catholic girls' boarding school, she received a degree from the Rochester Business Institute in the late 1920s. She moved to New York and took a job as a secretary for American Telephone and Telegraph Co.

She accompanied her husband, Seymour T. Partridge, to Washington in 1938. After her marriage ended in divorce, she supported her four children by caring for the elderly in her home, long before the term "assisted living" was coined. She retired in 1980.

A daughter, Mary Watson, died in 2004.

Survivors include three children, Sarah Watson of Bethesda, Henry Partridge of Muttontown, N.Y., and Julie Klemek of Irvine, Calif.; 15 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

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