Margaret Lia and Freda Gardner

Normandy invasion

Margaret LiaThe mom of my childhood friend Ray, Margaret Lia died recently at the age of 95. She was the Den Mother of our short-lived Cub Scout troop. I was terrible at the craft-driven things I was supposed to do, but she was very patient with me.

I always liked her light British accent. When Ray got married in October 1976 to Pam, I got to escort Mrs. Lia to her seat, and I was quite pleased by that.

I didn’t know this romantic story until I read it in the obituary: “Margaret worked as a stenographer when her company was moved from London to the countryside for the duration of World War II. It was there that she met and fell in love with Albert Lia, a US Army serviceman, whose troops were preparing for the Invasion of Normandy. During Albert’s time in Europe, they corresponded by mail and after the war, he proposed in a letter. Soon she was emigrating to America to become his war bride and their loving marriage lasted 60 years.”

Like most funerals in this period, “a memorial mass will be celebrated at SS Cyril and Methodius Church at a later date.” St. Cyril’s on Clinton Street in Binghamton was very close to my now-razed school, Daniel Dickinson.

“Please consider a donation to the American Civic Association, 131 Front Street, Binghamton, NY, 13905.” The ACA is “an organization committed to helping immigrants and refugees start a new life in our community while preserving their ethnic and cultural diversity.”

My late father, Les Green, was involved with the place. He, sister Leslie and I performed there at least once as the Green Family Singers. In March of 1969, I had my 16th birthday party there. And unfortunately, it was one of those mass shooting sites back in 2009.

A pioneer

Freda Gardner Freda Gardner was a member of my church. We served on a couple of committees together, including Education. We were part of the group working with Pastor Glenn Leupold when he was getting his doctorate c 2012-2015. She was wise, intelligent, compassionate, and always an advocate for equality and justice.

A fellow church member took her to a local presbytery meeting a few years back. He introduced her, at which point everyone laughed. “Oh, WE know Freda!”

Until relatively recently, neither he nor I knew she had been elected Moderator of the 211th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1999 and was the first female full-time faculty member at Princeton Theological Seminary. She was a force in the PCUSA, but never boasted about it.

As Pastor Glenn noted, “Freda was a life-long learner, possessing a masterful use of language. She could explain just about any theological concept with clarity and precision, enabling many to understand.” She was 91. As is often the case recently, “A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, at a date to be determined.”