MIDDLEBURY — A memorial service will be held Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m., in the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms for Oletha “Lee” Bickford, 96, who passed away May 14, 2016, in Middlebury.
She was born Nov. 1, 1919, in Starksboro, the third oldest of 11 children of the late Vesper C. and Kate Belle (Moody) Thompson.
Lee graduated from Bristol High School in 1937, from the University of Vermont in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and from Boston University in 1963 with a master’s degree in education. Lee, who taught school for 42 years, said her passion for education was inspired by nightly history discussions with her father during her childhood.
In 1944, she married Robert “Bob” Bickford, and they lived in several communities throughout Vermont and Massachusetts, with Lee teaching school at each stop. In 1963, they moved to Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., and she taught sixth grade in Ridgewood Township for 21 years. After retiring in 1984, Lee became a very successful real estate agent for two decades.
She and Bob traveled extensively, visiting more than 100 countries and making friends around the world. But they always returned to Vermont at every opportunity and considered it their home. They were active philanthropists who donated both their time and money to institutions throughout the region, especially the University of Vermont and Shelburne Farms. UVM awarded Lee an honorary doctorate in 1996, and she received the 2003 Distinguished Service Award from the UVM Alumni Association.
Lee is survived by her sister Leona Fawaz of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; her brother Elwyn Thompson and his wife Vivian of Olney, Md.; her brothers-in-law Glendon R. Bickford of Newport, Daniel Bickford of Henrico, Va., Elwood Bickford of Springfield, and Arthur A. Bickford of Turlock, Calif.; her sisters-in-law Evangeline of Newport and Betty of Underhill; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was predeceased by her husband, Bob, who died in 2007; by three sisters, Celia Clime of Olney, Md., Theda Moran of Fitchburg, Mass., and Winona Thompson of Starksboro; and by five brothers, Warren Thompson of Bristol, Robert Thompson of Lincoln, Kenneth Thompson of White River Junction, and Rudolph Thompson and Vesper Thompson Jr., both of Starksboro.
Donations in Oletha’s honor may be directed to Shelburne Farms, or to the Vesper & Kate Thompson History Department Endowment, UVM Foundation, 411 Main St., Burlington, VT 05401. ◊