Harriet Burns Stieff
The Historical Society of Sarasota County, indeed all who live or visit here, owe a great debt of gratitude to Harriet Burns Stieff, who passed away after 10 decades of gracious life. Her obituary:
Harriet Burns Stieff, 99, the youngest daughter of
early Sarasota developer Owen Burns and Vernona Freeman Burns, died peacefully at home surrounded by family on June 2, 2022. Harriet was born in New York City on July 31st, 1922, while her mother was visiting family and was brought shortly thereafter to Sarasota, where she spent her childhood. She attended the Out-of-Door School (now Out-of-Door Academy) and graduated from Sarasota High School.
“Sarasota was a wonderful place to grow up,” she was fond of saying of the city boom days of the 1920s and early 30s. After her father’s death, the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she graduated from Goucher College, with a major in Biology.
She married Lorin Rollins Stieff in Annapolis, MD, on June 24, 1944, where their son Frederick Rollins Stieff was born a year later. The adventuresome young family moved first to Palo Alto, CA, and later to the Colorado Plateau, where Lorin worked in the field as a geologist. They settled in Kensington, MD, and, after the births of their son Charles Burns Stieff and daughter Catherine Lillian Stieff, Harriet earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Maryland, specializing in early childhood education. She taught Kindergarten in the Montgomery County (Maryland) School system where she instilled her love of learning in young children for 19 years. She was an active member of All Saints Episcopal Church and served on the flower guild of the Washington National Cathedral for 19 years.
After she retired from teaching, Harriet and Lorin returned to her beloved Sarasota, where she was an active member of the Founders Garden Club of Sarasota, the Historical Society of Sarasota (where she served on the Advisory Board and was awarded HSOSC’s Distinguished Service award in 2015), and the Church of the Redeemer. “I’ve lived a blessed life,” Harriet said to all, recounting her love of family, flowers, baseball and children. She loved telling stories of early Sarasota history and shared her knowledge and wisdom generously with all.
Nothing was more important to Harriet than her family, and she relished her role as family matriarch. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband Lorin Rollins Stieff, to whom she was married for 72 years, her parents Owen and Vernona (Freeman) Burns, and her four siblings. Her indomitable spirit lives on in her children Frederick Rollins Stieff (and Kelly Ide Stieff), of Leesburg, VA, Charles Burns Stieff (and Linda Paine) of Garrett Park, MD, Catherine Stieff Gotschall (and Steve Luchter) of North Port, FL, as well as her grandchildren, Lorin Carr Stieff, Alexandra Stieff Davis (and John Davis), Caroline Calloway, Stephen Ide (and Hannah Manke Ide), Katie Ide, Taunton Paine (and Nikki Ferraiolo), her great-grandchildren, Matthew Rollins Davis and Lauren Burns Davis, and many nieces, nephews.
A service in celebration of Harriet’s life will be held on what would have been her 100th birthday, July 31st at 4:00 pm at the Church of the Redeemer, 222 South Palm Ave. Friends may send memorial donations in her name to the Church of the Redeemer, the Children’s Literacy Initiative, or to the Lillian Grant Burns Memorial Fund for Research & Preservation of Sarasota County History.
Harriet, a Life Member of HSoSC and our Hero of History, shows her lighter side at our 2019 holiday party with her Christmas tree hat!