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Ardith Owen Steere Fortier ’55

October 25, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Contributed by John Sheehy ’82

Ardie came to Reed as a nontraditional student, enrolling for her junior year after taking a break from college to marry and give birth to two children. Born in Spokane, Washington, she relocated with her parents during World War II to Maine, where her father was assigned command of an army base. For high school, Ardie was sent to Buckingham, Brown and Nichols in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Following graduation, she enrolled at Pomona College, where she met and married her first husband, James Steere, at the end of her sophomore year.

The couple moved to Sacramento, where James completed his veterinarian degree at University of California, Davis, while Ardie gave birth to the first two of their six children. In 1953, while James took his residency in Oregon City, Ardie enrolled at Reed to complete her degree.

She thrived amidst the intellectual challenges Reed provided. At the time, both faculty and students were being targeted by McCarthy witch hunts. After FBI informants identified an Easter event held at a student house off campus as a communist gathering, Ardie was among a group of students who submitted a letter to the board of trustees and alumni calling for the reassertion of academic freedom on campus.

In summer of 1954, Ardie’s husband was presented with an opportunity to assume a veterinarian practice in Grants Pass, putting an end to Ardie’s plans to return to Reed for her senior year.

Over the next decade, the family lived in Copenhagen, Southern California, and Massachusetts, before settling in Petaluma, California. Along the way Ardie gave birth to four more children. In the mid-1960s, she filed for divorce and started a new chapter in her life, returning to college to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychology at Sonoma State University.

With her second husband, psychology professor Joseph Fortier, she moved to Europe for five years, living and working in Kilrush, Ireland, and Munich, Germany. Following Joseph’s death, Ardie returned to school for a degree in nursing. At the age of 60, she joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Costa Rica as a nurse. Upon returning to the States, she settled near her children in San Francisco, where she continued her nursing career until retiring at age 75.

Ardie’s glorious smile and contagious laughter drew people from all walks of life into her orbit. An inveterate reader who completed crossword puzzles in ink, she loved every animal that ever had the good fortune to cross her path. She is survived by her six children, Robin, Leslie, Carrie, Melinda, Thomas, and Robert.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2022

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