Leah Brodbeck Stenzel Burt, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, passed away unexpectedly on April 13th at Duke University Hospital.
Leah was born October 27 1931, the daughter of Elsie Agnes Brodbeck and Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel. Much to her father’s surprise, she was born a redhead. She always relished her distinction as a ginger, or “carrot-top”. The family of three moved to Austin, TX when her father accepted a position as professor of geology at the University of Texas. In Austin the family grew to include her sisters Shoshana (Sonya) and Yetta (Maryetta).
Leah was intellectually precocious, graduating from high school, and then from the University of Texas at 1951. There she majored in chemistry and spent her free time on geological digs and square dancing. Not surprisingly she was a member of the redhead club.
Upon graduation, Leah moved to Wilmington, DE to work for DuPont where she was part of the research team working on the development of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), better known as Teflon. She and her roommates attended YMCA dances and young adult weekends in the area. It was while floating on a raft in the Chesapeake Bay that Leah met Wallace A. Burt. They married soon after on December 21, 1952 at Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, DE.
In 1954 Leah left DuPont to become a homemaker and mother when their oldest daughter, Brenda, was born. Not a person to be idle, Leah’s interests in sewing, gardening, and historical furnishings intensified. Brenda was soon followed by sisters Candace in 1956 and Sarah in 1959. Leah began volunteering at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens. When Wallace was transferred to NJ, her love of colonial american history found a further outlet at Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow, a U.S. National Historic Park in Morristown, NJ. beginning her second career.
While in Morristown, Leah honed her needle arts and design skills, creating crewel work valances and seating covers, smocking complex English designs, stenciling walls in colonial patterns.. Leah transferred from the Morristown site to Thomas Edison National Historic Park, South Orange, NJ. Here as curator, she was able to utilize her scientific knowledge to decipher and catalog Edison’s many laboratory experiments, inventions, and personal possessions. When she retired Leah worked with Walter Welch to publish “From Tinfoil to Stereo: The Acoustic Years of the Recording Industry” in 1994.
Leah and Wallace always wanted to own an historic home. The opportunity presented itself in 1978 when they purchased William Reed’s Ordinary, a late eighteenth century home in Hillsborough, NC where they moved upon her retirement. Once they arrived Leah and Wallace embarked upon refurbishing the garden and making historically accurate improvements. Those who live in town will recall the breathtaking red dahlias and magnolia that graced the property.
Around the time of her retirement, Leah was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The disease eventually impacted her mobility, but never her pursuit of her interests, and love of family.
Leah is survived by her three daughters, Brenda Burt of Hamden, CT, Candace Burt (Maribel Colon) of Cary, NC and Sarah Burt Timmel (John) of Hillsborough, NC. She is also survived by her younger sisters Sonya Fitzgerald of Acapulco, Mexico and Maryetta Lindsay of Parkville, MO. Leah has four wonderful grandchildren: Ross Whalen (Elysia Perez), Travis Whalen (Sydney), David Timmel and Audrey Timmel. She is a great grandmother to Sofia, Asher, and Alexander.
A viewing and visitation will be held at Walker’s Funeral Home in Hillsborough, NC on Monday, April 16th from 11am-noon. Funeral services will be held at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough, NC on Monday, April 16th at 2 pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Michael J. Fox Foundation (https://www.michaeljfox.org/get-involved/donation2.php ).