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The magic of Harriet Potter

When you meet a truly blissful nonagenarian, you wonder what kind of spirit is alight warming the zest for life? In the case of Rutland resident Harriet Potter, who turned 90 on June 23, it's the closeness of a loving family's five generations, many friends, neighbors, a spiritual community at Grace Congregational Church, and treasured Vermont memories that make this unique woman's long life worth celebrating.

Harriet's daughter, Bette Parker, laughs at the similarity between her mother's name and the fictional magician Harry Potter of children's book fame. Beyond the similar sounding names, there's a decided touch of magic about Harriet Potter that transcends her 90 years.

An exact count of 90 members of the Potter and Parker families, as well as friends, helped celebrate Harriet's 90th birthday at the Franklin Conference Center recently-and Harriet was the queen bee of the ceremony to help recount the changes she witnessed in nearly a century of life.

Rutland grew from a small town to a busy city since the year of Harriet's birth-1919, a year after the War to End All Wars, World War I, ended. At the time of her birth, Harriet's father was a busy and prominent businessman, founder of Smith Lumber, now Rotella Building Materials, in Rutland. The Smiths would also be kept busy when three other children came along to join their sister Harriet.

She was born at home on Church Street, then known as Lincoln Avenue. She spent her youth in Rutland, Clarendon Springs and Proctor. Later in life, Harriet and her husband lived in Florida. She returned to Rutland to live with family a few years ago.

"As a little girl, there were still horses and wagons around Rutland," Harriet said. "Now today there is a lot of automobile traffic around here." She also remembers the old face of downtown Rutland's Merchants Row with its Buster Brown shoe store, New York Clothing Store, and popular Economy Store.

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