RANDOLPH — Scientist, artist, adventurer. Harriet Gilman Kruszyna excelled in all those phases of her multifaceted life.
Born on Nov. 19, 1937, in Worcester, Mass., into a family of old Yankee landed gentry whose origins can be traced to Colonial days, she benefited from a genteel upbringing. She attended the Bancroft School where she showed a talent for science and athletics. She graduated from the then elite women’s college, Vassar, with a major in chemistry and minor in art, her true passion. She continued her education at Wesleyan College and Boston University, where she earned a PhD in chemistry, an unusual feat for a woman of her generation.
Subsequently she worked as a science educator and ultimately as a research scientist at Dartmouth College and Medical School, where her work focused on environmental toxicants. She was an author or co-author of numerous scientific papers that were published in scientific journals.
Along the way, she continued her interest in art, producing works in varied styles: oil painting, charcoal sketching, silk screen, sculpture and watercolors. But her most successful work was in pottery. She installed a potter’s wheel and kiln in her home, where she designed, built and fired stoneware pieces primarily for dinnerware. With her background in chemistry, she was able to formulate her own leadfree glazes. She sold much of her production through local gift and craft shops.
In 1962, Harriet accompanied her father, Bradley Gilman, a noted mountaineer, to the annual camp of the Alpine Club of Canada in the Canadian Rockies, where she became hooked on the sport. At the 1965 camp, she met Bob Kruszyna when she was assigned to a party that he was guiding. Sparks flew and they were married within a year. They moved to New Hampshire in 1968 and the Randolph in 1972 in order to hike and snowshoe in the White Mountains.
Thereafter, they spent several weeks every summer mountaineering and exploring, primarily in the mountains of Western Canada, often in the company of friends from Bob’s climbing circle. She carried backpacks weighing 50 pounds or more (she weighed 130) into the wilderness, where she participated in several first ascents. Eventually, they climbed in other ranges, the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas, where she reached 20,000 feet on two occasions. Overall, she ascended more than 500 alpine peaks in a career of 50-odd years, an extraordinary feat for any climber, male or female. She had tremendous stamina, grit and fearlessness. In her 50s, she took up cross-country skiing, traveling “off-piste” old logging roads and hiking trails in the White Mountains. This led to wilderness skiing in the mountains of Western Canada, where she became an accomplished telemark skier.
Ancillary to the climbing, she and Bob traveled to numerous foreign countries, usually on a self-organized basis. The ‘Stans of Central Asia, Tibet, Easter Island, Ethiopia, Tierra del Fuego, Iran, Siberia, Bolivia, Mongolia. She was an avid gardener, producing a vegetable crop that would feed a large family. She had an abiding interest in the natural world, and in particular bird-watching. She enjoyed listening to classical music, either on recordings or live in concert halls and opera houses, both here and in Europe. She served on the committee that raised a half-million dollars for a new library in Randolph and later worked as a volunteer librarian.
She was stricken by a stroke in August 2017 and rendered incapacitated, passing away on Nov. 8, 2017, just short of her 80th birthday. She is survived by her husband of 51 years.
In her memory, you can feed the birds, or plant a flower in your garden, or borrow a book from your library.
Vale, my true love.
The Bryant Funeral Home in Gorham is handling the arrangements. Online guestbook at www.bryantfuneralhome.net.