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Lear Historian Turns 95
September, 1999

Dorothy Vaughn

It was supposed to be Tobias Lear's birthday party, but Dorothy Vaughan opened all the gifts. For neatly a century of work, Dr. Vaughan received the key to the city of Portsmouth from her friend, Mayor Evelyn Sirrell on her 95th birthday. Normally a quiet event in the historic Lear House on the narrow Hunking Street in Portsmouth's South End, yesterday's celebration was packed with well-wishers and newspaper photographers

"Don't want me to get too excited and have a heart attack," Dorothy quipped, "I'm old you know." But her age was not in evidence as the near-centenarian waved her arms animatedly and told tales of fund-raising for her latest causes - the Tobias Lear House and the Wentworth-Gardner House next door. Formerly the town librarian for 53 years, Dorothy Vaughan was also instrumental in the formation of Strawbery Banke Museum (press BACK to return) during the days of urban renewal in Portsmouth. Mayor Sirrell announced that, by popular demand, Ms Vaughan has begun writing a book about Her memories of Portsmouth history.

Dorothy Vaughn

Glowing with emotion, the mayor awarded her friend with a proclamation and the key to the city. "I used to have the keys to the library," Dorothy said, "but never the whole city."

"There hasn't been this many people here since George Washington visited," Lear House docent Barbara Meyer said from among the crowd in attendance. Washington visited the mother of Tobias Lear V in the same parlor in 1789 and crowds from Portsmouth, according to legend, pressed their faces against the windows to watch.

Dorothy Vaughn

When well-wishers brought out a flaming birthday cake, the photo op was too good to miss. The resulting pictures made the front page of both local newspapers. Dorothy Vaughan, who frequently helps out with history details on stories, was presented with a gift by the Portsmouth Historical Society and this web site - the sheet music to the song "Portsmouth by the Sea" published by poet Clara Lynn in 1923 at the city's 300th anniversary. "I remember Miss Lynn well," Dorothy said. Following the ceremony, for work promoting the two historic houses, was awarded an honorary membership in the Lear/Wentworth-Gardner Society. Had he lived, Tobias Lear would be 237 years old today.
--- JDR

(Read and press BACK to return)

Foster's Online Story
The Portsmouth Herald Story

© 1999
Photos by J. Dennis Robinson

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