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Middlebury College graduate returns for her 80th reunion

BRISTOL/MIDDLEBURY — As a student at Middlebury College, Gertrude Lathrop helped pay tuition by working as a waitress and house cleaner.
“Jobs were scarce,” she recalled in a recent interview at her home in Bristol.
The state of the job market should not be surprising, since Lathrop attended the college from 1930 to 1934, the height of the Great Depression.
Lathrop, who will mark her 102nd birthday on Oct. 12, was on campus in Middlebury again this past Saturday during Middlebury College’s Alumni Reunion Weekend as the as the lone representative of the Class of 1934.
Lathrop graduated from Middlebury with a degree in French 80 years ago.
The Bristol native was born Gertrude Hewitt in 1912 at the Hewitt Homestead, a farmhouse on Hewitt road in Bristol where she lives to this day. Her parents, Harvey and Lena, maintained a dairy farm stretching from the homestead to Route 116.
After Middlebury College, she moved to Schaghticoke, N.Y., to teach in a rural schoolhouse. She returned to Bristol and married Earl Lathrop, a local farmer, in 1942. After the war the couple moved into the historic “Pillars” house on Bristol Flats off Route 116 not far from her childhood home.
In 1974 the Lathrops moved back into the Hewitt Homestead, which Gertrude’s grandfather had bought in 1888. They had six children: twin boys, two more boys and two daughters.
“I always wanted a brother,” she laughs, “but my mother said, that costs money!”
Now she is a great-grandmother, and many of her descendants have stayed in the area.
“Just keeping track of the kids keeps me busy,” Lathrop said.
These days, Lathrop sticks close to home: her son David says this past weekend’s trip to Middlebury was the first time she’d been out since Christmas. “I’m not too crazy about traveling now,” she admits, though she visited Europe four times in her youth. Lathrop also traveled cross-country several times and lived in Connecticut with her husband during World War II, when he worked in a factory in the war effort.
Since she graduated, Lathrop has seldom had the chance to revisit the Middlebury campus. The first thing she mentioned when asked about changes on campus was the trees. The hill going down from Mead Chapel was largely barren when she was a student at the college, but is now marked by elms and other trees. The Arbor Day Foundation declared Middlebury a “tree campus” in 2010.
Plans for Lathrop to attend her 80th college reunion were a year in the making. Her son Doug, who lives in Texas, had a hand in convincing her that she should represent her class. Campus security made special concessions, allowing her to be driven right up to Mead Chapel, where convocation was held on Saturday afternoon. Lathrop is hard of hearing, so she may not have caught every word of the speeches, but, David says, “she enjoyed the attention.”
Lathrop laughed and smiled when she heard she would be in the paper.
“I guess we all like to read about ourselves now and then,” she said.

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