Cranston bids farewell to its volunteer extraordinaire
When word spread quickly through the Cranston community that beloved former Park View secretary and volunteer Harriet Dever passed away on November 16, a collective feeling of loss went through the city.
"She started with Cranston in 1942. She was promoted to "Chief Clerk" at Park View in 1954 and never left until June 2003," said Ray Votto, Chief Operating Officer for Cranston Public Schools.
She had been at Park View for so long, she saw children and grandchildren of her “students,” as she called them.
While Harriet never had children or a family of her own, she liked to say Cranston was her family.
Remembered by students and residents alike, one theme that was consistent was that "she always had a smile on her face," according to Ashley Jeffers, who attended Park View.
Harriet would see former students at all sorts of events and would always greet them happily.
"Many years after leaving Park View, no matter where she saw me she remembered exactly who I was. First and last name," said Dana Gelsomino.
Harriet's memory lives on, not just with former students.
"Ms. Dever was the face of Park View from its opening in 1954 until the early 2000s,” Park View principal Mike Crudale said. “Her work ethic and dedication was second to none. She inspired everyone around her to work harder. She also had the ability to never forget a face or a name. She will be sadly missed by all the administrators, faculty, staff and students who traveled the halls of Park View.”
Harriet was the unofficial Mayor of Cranston, being recognized by residents of all ages.
“I join the entire Cranston community in mourning the loss of Harriett Dever, a beloved member of our senior center,” said Mayor Allan Fung. “Harriet was a dedicated volunteer, serving as a member of the RSVP program and taking part in nearly every function. She also volunteered in our schools and supported numerous local charities. Harriet gave back so much to the city and I will miss seeing her at my visits to the senior center throughout the year.”
Harriet was extremely proud of being the oldest Girl Scout in the state of Rhode Island. She was a member since 1936. In fact, she gifted a new cabin to be built at Camp Hoffman for the upcoming season.
"Harriet and I spoke at lengths about her gift to other scouts,” said Jill Martens, Director of Grants and Annual Giving for the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island. “The cabin will be called 'Dever's Rest'. Harriet was hoping to make it to see the dedication. We are still planning to do a ceremony in the spring with our scouts and her church friends.
Her colleagues at the Knight Memorial Library memorialized Harriet as well.
"As a child, Harriett, who attended Gilbert Stuart School, frequently visited Knight Memorial Library. She would often comment that where she volunteered at Knight, The Book Sale, is housed in the same room that was the Children’s Library when she was young. She recalled time spent at the library with great fondness. Harriett completed three years of service to the BOOK SALE this past August,” Doug Victor, Manager of the Friends of Knight Memorial Library Weekday Book Sales, said.
According to Victor, she was the person who diligently added up the East Side Marketplace Friendship Fund receipts, which brought in hundreds of dollars to both the Providence Community Library and the Friends Group.
“Harriett cashiered at our Tuesday and Thursday sales and helped prep for the monthly Saturday sales,” he continued. “She faithfully delivered overage stock books to McCauley Village as part of the Book Shelf Project. And, she was the woman who generously donated the first two thousand dollars toward establishing an endowment for Knight Memorial Library. Not bad for being a nonagenarian. Harriett found much satisfaction volunteering and rarely missed a day.”
Harriet brightened a room. She was a happy, compassionate soul who had time for everyone. The list of organizations and groups she volunteered for is extensive, including serving on the board of directors for Volunteers in Cranston Schools, volunteering with the local PBS, with her beloved Church of the Transfiguration, with Roger Williams Park Zoo, and many other charitable organizations.
Her spirit and generosity are what legends are made of. And, Harriet Dever was a legend in Cranston.
The life she lived was one of true selflessness and generosity of spirit. A lesson to learn and a life to emulate.
She was recently featured in Prime Time Magazine in an article titled Keeping Up with F. Harriett Dever, which can be found at issuu.com/beaconcommunications/docs/primetime_july_2017.