Woolwich, Maine - Natalie Faith Pierce Kent Kempner was born on Jan. 18, 1924 to Gertrude Lindahl and George Kyle Pierce in Binghamton, New York. She grew up a happy child “oblivious to the Depression that required me to sleep in the living room so my mother could take in roomers”.
During her years at Smith College, which coincided with World War II, her view of the world widened and she became a committed Pacifist and as she discovered the Society of Friends, she joined the Northampton Friends Meeting.
She married Orlow Albert Kent, known as Oakie, in 1947 and settled in Ithaca, New York. In 1948 they set out for two years of Voluntary Service with the American Friends Service Committee in Munich, Germany working with the International Refugee Organizations’ Children’s Village. Their first child, Michael, was born in Munich in 1950. Returning home they worked as co-directors of the Ithaca Children’s Home. Their son, Peter, was born in 1951. From 1951-1953 they lived at a low-income housing project in Cleveland while Oakie was in graduate school. Their daughter Nancy was born in 1953. The next four years saw them in Rhinelander, Wisconsin where Joe McCarthy was Senator. “It was a time when even my small job as International Projects Director for the local Girl Scout Council was considered suspect. My reaction was to take a strong political stand!” Their youngest child, Nicholas Orlow, was born in 1956.
During 1963 and 1964 the family lived in newly independent Tanganyika, East Africa where Oakie directed the AFSC’s Voluntary International Service Assignments (VISA) that provided grassroots work experience for young adults and alternative service for Conscientious Objectors (CO’s) to the draft.“ In April, 1964 Oakie died in an automobile accident. Natalie and the four children returned to Ithaca where Natalie worked as Program coordinator for the parents of Head Start children and then became a full time student at Cornell where she earned a Master of Art in teaching history and social studies, designing a program of African studies for Ithaca High School.
Natalie married Fritz Kempner in 1971 and moved to Philadelphia where she focused on Environmental Education, founding and directing the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, a non-profit bi-lingual learning center. By 1981 she was a very active participant in Philadelphia’s Sanctuary Movement, giving shelter to Central American refugees at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House. The Sanctuary work and the Norris Square project were very significant passions for her and many of the people she met during those years have kept in close touch with her.
In 1990, Natalie and Fritz retired and moved to Woolwich, Maine. As Quaker and Pacifist, she served on the National Board as well as on many committees of the American Friends Service Committee. She also served as Clerk of Friends Meetings in Ithaca, Philadelphia, and Brunswick, Maine.
“Since retirement my delights have been the natural world, the poets, and my eight grandchildren who range in age from 12 – 42. The world by the Kennebec River is breathtakingly beautiful. It is hard, from here, to grasp the news of the day.“
A Quaker meeting in Natalie’s honor will be held at the Day’s Ferry Congregational Church, Woolwich Maine on December 28, 2019 at 11AM.
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