Swarthmore Town Mothers (and Fathers)
Here is the first of an occasional series on the men and women who helped make Swarthmore what it is today, and continue to act and influence others to make the town vibrant and vital.
Few Swarthmoreans have lived here longer than Alice “Putty” Willets, and fewer still have known as many of their fellow residents. In her 38 years at Swarthmore High School and two more at Strath Haven, Putty taught and coached a couple of generations of youth in the school she herself had attended from kindergarten through graduation in 1943. Many of her students and classmates have also benefitted from her vision, energies and leadership as a co-founder of the Swarthmore Senior Citizens Association, including the creation and funding of the Dew Drop Inn with her friend Irma Zimmer, and chairing the first steering committee of SSCA’s precursor.
Putty believed in “aging in place” before anyone had coined that term, said the late Lew Rinko, onetime Swarthmorean owner who followed her as SSCA chair. “The SSCA is focused on Putty Willetts’s goal of creating a truly intergenerational community. We want Swarthmoreans to realize the benefits of living in a community where all ages are able to enjoy helping and interacting with each other.”
Putty has been involved in many of Swarthmore’s institutions, from coaching in the Swarthmore Recreation Association to presiding over the Rotary Club and its Charity Fun-Fair parade; helping create the town’s Centennial Program and Yearbook and co-chairing the ABC Luminaria project in its early days; and serving for eight years on Borough Council as a member, vice president, and four years as its only Republican member.
Indeed, at age 83, she ran for Mayor of Swarthmore, campaigning “not as a politician, but as a Swarthmorean…not because I am dedicated to a party, but because I am dedicated to a town.”
Putty Willetts, your hometown newspaper salutes you.
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