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Sylvia Fitts Getchell
(July 3, 1925 - November 17, 2012)

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Sylvia Fitts Getchell

Newmarket - Sylvia Fitts Getchell died at Exeter Hospital on November 17th 2012.

She was the widow of Dr. L. Forbes Getchell. She was born at Wentworth Hospital in Dover, NH on July 3, 1925, a daughter to the late Perley Irving Fitts and Marguerite Elizabeth (Marden) Fitts. She grew up in Durham, NH, attending grade school there and high school in Dover. “Syl” received a B.A. magna cum laude at U.N.H. in 1947 majoring in History. She went on to Simmons College where she received a B.S. in Library Science in 1948. Sylvia worked as a professional cataloger at Columbia University in NYC from 1948-51 and held a similar position at UNH from 1951-2. She was the Newmarket school librarian for 15 years (1970-85). Sylvia was an active and contributing member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs. Getchell is remembered for her roles as Brownie and Girl Scout leader. She worked as a volunteer in the library and was a docent for many years at the American Independence Museum in Exeter, N.H.

Sylvia married her best friend, L(eonard) Forbes Getchell, also from Durham, in 1948. They moved to NYC while Forbes finished dental school. She enjoyed living in the city and working at Columbia. Syl spoke often and glowingly of the Cloisters and the lovely walks they had there as well as the wonderful picnics by the river. However, the move back to NH was a happy one. The couple bought a house in Newmarket and raised four children. The family delighted in times spent at their rustic camp on Great Bay or in the mountains of Maine or NH. Sylvia had a great fondness for ocean swimming and would take every opportunity to swim back and forth along the beach at Short Sands in York Beach. Her folks had a home there and she grew up playing with her siblings and cousins. Family gatherings were a source of joy for her. Her family nickname was “Hitta”. Her older sister, Dorothy, couldn’t pronounce the word “sister”, so Syl became Dolly’s “little Hitta”.

As a young woman, Syl played the trombone in the high school band. Throughout her life, she was an avid reader, an expert seamstress, and a prolific and creative knitter. In her retirement, she picked up oil painting and sold some of her work at craft fairs. She played an active role in the Newmarket Community Church as a collector and Sunday School teacher. The Newmarket Historical Society was fortunate to have her as a volunteer curator since its founding in 1966. She and Forbes spent many years in the company of dear friends as members of the 1st New Market Militia starting in 1972. They traveled together to events up and down the east coast and in Paris as well. The couple continued to take part in 18th century reenactments and presentations in area schools. Sylvia played the part of a “housewife” and got a kick out of showing youngsters that it is possible to mend an article of clothing to extend its usefulness rather than throwing it out. She made thrift an art form.

History was Sylvia’s great love. She published three extensive genealogies and a history of life on the Lamprey River in the town of Newmarket. The genealogies include her mother’s family (Marden), her father’s (Fitts), and her husband’s (Getchell). Her children remember that on family adventures they were always stopping at graveyards while “Mom” wandered with her notebook and pen. As well as those large publications, she published an historical map of Newmarket and two other smaller historical pamphlets.

Following retirement, Sylvia and Forbes had many meaningful travel adventures enhancing their understanding of history, their own heritage, and the natural world. Sylvia especially loved maps and relished planning those trips as much as she enjoyed the journey.

In addition to her late husband L. Forbes Getchell, Sylvia is predeceased by her sister, Dorothy Fitts Baldwin. She is survived by her brother, Richard Marden Fitts and his wife, Virginia, daughter, Ann Marden Gray and her husband, Lindsey, daughter, Faith Perley Getchell and her husband, Glenn Jenks, sons Edward Fitts Getchell and William Forbes Getchell, grandchildren, Sarah Gray Page, Seth P. Gray, Marilyn Gray, Melanie Gray, three great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Gifts in her memory can be donated to the Newmarket Community Church or to the Newmarket Historical Society. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 1, at 2:00 PM at the Kent & Pelczar Funeral Home, 77 Exeter Street in Newmarket.

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