Harriette Line Thompson

October 16, 2017

Charlotte -Harriette Line Thompson of The Cypress of Charlotte died peacefully on October 16, 2017, embracing death with the same courage and strength with which she lived her life of 94 years. Growing up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Harriette first took piano lessons from her mother, Harriet Brenneman Line, whom she considered to be one of the great blessings of her life. As she grew older and her skills advanced, Harriette took on a new teacher, riding her blue bicycle 13 miles to and from her piano lesson each week..

As a young woman, Harriette studied at Carlisle’s Dickinson College, where the Dean of Women’s admonition, “we don’t roller skate to class and we don’t wear ski pants” didn’t have much effect on her behavior. Neither did the intention of her attorney father, J. Harvey Line, to keep her close to home. Secretly, she sought and won a full piano scholarship to study music at Syracuse University, a fait accompli to which her father eventually acquiesced.

Harriette believed the second great blessing of her life was meeting her future husband, Sydnor Thompson, Jr., while at Syracuse. They married on the day of their graduation, June 2, 1947, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where Sydnor studied law at nearby Harvard and Harriette taught piano at Boston University.

Following law school, Harriette and Sydnor studied in England after they both received Fulbright Scholarships. Characteristic of the time, Harriette’s Fulbright was withdrawn when her husband’s was accepted. Moving to New York City, Harriette continued her piano studies and gave the first of three piano concerts she would eventually perform at Carnegie Recital Hall. The couple moved to Charlotte, NC in 1954, where Harriette and Sydnor raised their five children. Harriette continued her concert career, performing at home and abroad, including voyages on the Queen Elizabeth II from 1972 to 1980. She earned her Master of Arts degree from UNC-Greensboro, pursued graduate studies at the University of Maryland, and later taught at Queens College, the Community School of the Arts, and UNC-Charlotte.

Inspired by the movie, “The Sound of Music,” Harriette took her five children to Vienna, Austria in 1966 to 1967, to immerse them in the Austrian culture. There she earned the Artist’s Diploma at the Vienna Conservatory.

Harriette followed one of her piano students to the Aspen Music Festival in 1977, finding Aspen to be a bit of heaven. She returned to her new-found paradise over the next 34 summers, performing as a pianist, giving benefit concerts, and running fund-raising events for the Aspen Chapel.

Always active in life, Harriette began running marathons at the age of 76. She ran the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon 16 times, raising over $115,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In 2014, she broke the world marathon record for fastest female over 90 by 1 hour, 45 minutes and 26 seconds. In 2015, Harriette gained international fame by becoming the oldest female to complete a marathon at age 92. In 2017, she became the oldest female to complete a half marathon at age 94. Not particularly impressed with her running achievements, Harriette confided, “it is a lot harder to give a concert than to run a marathon.”

Perhaps Harriette’s most inspirational achievement was how she faced her 30-year battle with cancer, always keeping a smile on her face and maintaining a positive attitude. A woman of deep faith and a 50+ year member of the choir at Myers Park United Methodist Church, she approached death unafraid, thankful for having lived a wonderful life.

Harriette was predeceased by her husband, Sydnor, and her four brothers, Henry, James, Brenneman and Richard Line. She is survived by her five children, Darcy Howard of Charlotte, Sydnor Thompson III and his wife, Kelly of Rutherfordton, NC, Harriet Moore and her husband, Kevin of Greencastle, IN, Brenneman Thompson of Charlotte, and Katherine Line Kelly and her husband, Patrick of Charlotte. Her beloved grandchildren include Lewis Kluttz, Ruth Kasza and her husband, Nicholas, Adaire Thompson, Angela Thompson, Alice Moore, Rebecca Moore, Tristan Thompson, Julia Kelly, Audrey Kelly and John Kelly. She also leaves behind many treasured nieces and nephews and other members of her extended family.

A celebration of Harriette’s life will be held at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 21, 2017, with the family receiving visitors in Jubilee Hall after the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be made to Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, 248 Ridgewood Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209, The Assistance League of Charlotte, 3405 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28217, The Aspen Chapel, 77 Meadowood Dr, Aspen, CO 81611, or The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at www.kennethpoeservices.com.

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Comments

  • PAUL NITSCH

    To all the Thompson/Line family members,
    I am one of the hundreds of friends who adored Harriette. Since I met her in 1977, she became the absolute most inspiring person I ever have known. I am also a pianist, a teacher at Queens, and have treasured countless gatherings with Harriette, Sydnor and many of you over the years on many occasions. I had the joy of providing the orchestra accompaniment for the Rachmaninoff Concerto when Harriette prepared to perform with the Charlotte Symphony! What fun we had, what a cheerful and dedicated person and musician she was, with compassion, passion, and joy every moment I saw her. She will live in my heart that way, as I will miss her.
    I am sad to have to be out of town during the memorial service, but my heart will be with you all there.
    With sincere sympathy and deep fondness for that truly extraordinary lady.
    Paul Nitsch

  • Keith Stephenson

    Sydnor, what a great mom and she was blessed with a long life despite battling cancer. You and your are in my prayers. In Christ, Keith

  • Jean and Russ Cossart

    To the Harriette Thompson family,
    We were blessed to have known Harriette due to our living at the Cypress. She had an extraordinary past but always lived in the present. Her kindness, positive attitude and smile will be missed.
    Our prayers are with all of you at this time
    Jean and Russ Cossart

  • Christian and Jennifer Barner

    All:

    Bruce Barner forwarded me a copy of Harriette's obituary this morning and I wanted to pass along my condolences. It is so clear that Harriette's was "a life well lived" and she will certainly be missed by those close to her -- but also by those of us who only got to enjoy her company at occasional family reunions. We so enjoyed reading on line through the years of her exploits and accomplishments. Jennifer and I wish all of you our love and affection as you gather to remember this remarkable woman.

  • Jane Cox

    Sydnor, Darcy, Harriette, Brenny and Kathy - Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. We are so privileged to have known your mom - she was such as sweet, loving, giving lady. I will keep close the many fond memories I have of growing up together on Brandon Rd. You can take comfort in that she is now with your dad and that you will meet her again. Love you guys! Jane, George, Rosemary, Phillip and Caroline.

  • Jo-Ann Hall

    Harriett was an inspiration to anyone who knew her, and I was blessed to have known her during her summers in Aspen.

  • Michele

    I am so sorry to hear of Harriette's passing. I didn't know her, but was one of her many fans (and we only know just a part of her story). She was a true inspiration to runners and women everywhere.