Putty Willetts, who has lived almost all of her 90 years in Swarthmore, was celebrated last weekend by many of the present and former Swarthmoreans whose lives are interwoven with hers in the fabric of the town. Her “adopted nephew” Dan Kobick, who helped coordinate logistics on his frequent visits from his home in Virginia, said, “Putty’s 90th birthday was an excuse to celebrate her life, among her extended family and friends who make it possible for her to stay in the town and the place she loves. She is adamant about remaining at home, but it couldn’t happen without the selflessness of her network in Swarthmore and Wallingford.”
“My friends here have literally saved my life,” Putty said. As a co-founder and leader of the Swarthmore Senior Citizens Association, Putty has long advocated and acted to make it easier for seniors to remain in Swarthmore. Interdependence is a crucial component of that effort, and the devotion she inspires is rare.
Carol O’Dea, a Swarthmore neighbor, former student and friend of Putty, said, “For generations of Swarthmoreans, Putty has been a role model, a mentor, a teacher and a coach. As the microphone was passed around the party, guests had a chance to talk about what she has meant to each of us, and remember so many areas where she was a pioneer.”
Putty was deeply moved by the presence and tributes of those she loves. “It was like a memorial service, but I was there! That was the joy of it.”