Haverhill — Cornelia H. Fitts, 99, a longtime resident of Andover, died Dec. 28 of heart failure at the home she shared with her son and his family.
Born in Brooklyn, the daughter of Brower and Antoinette Hewitt, she grew up in New Haven, Conn., and spent her summers at the family’s farm, Oldhaven, in North Stonington, Conn. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College in 1936 with a degree in zoology. She moved to Andover in the early 1940s after her husband, the late Dudley Fitts, joined the faculty of Phillips Academy, where he taught until his retirement in 1968.
She was active in the Andover chapter of the League of Women Voters, of which she was president in 1948-1950. She was secretary of the Democratic Town Committee in the early 1960s, was president of the Andover Consumers Cooperative from 1962-1965, and was a trustee of the Memorial Hall Library, among many other civic activities.
A lover of travel, she prevailed upon her husband to visit Europe in 1966 and 1967, where they had a wonderful time, especially in Italy and Greece. After his death in 1968, she returned to the scene of those happy memories. She worked as a librarian in the American Library at Santa Suzanna Church in Rome for 10 years. She taught herself Italian, explored Rome on foot, and enjoyed showing it off to visitors. Once a thief on a bicycle snatched her pocketbook. She mentioned it at the little place where she had a room, and the purse was returned to her within hours.
She eventually resettled in Andover, and worked for a while in the Boston University library. A lifelong liberal, she continued to march in demonstrations and donated frequently to causes she believed in, especially those involving civil rights and civil liberties. From 1979 until 1992, she volunteered for the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, where she was a telephone intake worker and helped overhaul the agency’s legal resource system.
She continued to make annual trips to Europe until her mid- 80s. Alone, with just a small backpack and a Eurail pass, she indulged her passion for medieval culture by exploring castles, cathedrals and museums all over Western Europe. She would stay at cheap hotels or visit with friends, washing her clothes at night and departing the next day for a new destination. She particularly enjoyed an adventurous solo trip she made in her late 70s to parts of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, countries where she did not know any of the languages.
Widowed in her 50s, she was unfailingly polite and proudly self-reliant, living alone until she was 96. In Andover, she enjoyed reading and occasional lunches with friends. She would walk two miles daily. She became a kind, doting “Momish” for her grandchildren, Jack, Tim and Nell Fitts, and a good friend to her daughter-in-law. She was very close to her late daughter, Deborah, and enjoyed excursions with Deb and Deb’s husband, Clark Hall, to places such as Manhattan, Washington, Rome and London.
She was predeceased by her husband; her daughter; her sisters, Lydia Hobbs and Nina Stanley, and her brother, Glentworth, of Connecticut; and many friends. She is survived by her son, Daniel, and his wife, Kathleen, of Haverhill and their children, and by many cousins, nieces and nephews.
ARRANGEMENTS: A private burial will take place in the spring, with arrangements by the Kevin B. Comeau Funeral Home of Haverhill. Donations in her memory may be made to the ACLU of Massachusetts or to Merrimack Valley Hospice, which provided her with loving care for nearly a year. Please visit Comeau Funeral Home on Facebook, or www.comeaufuneral.com.