Elsie Landstrom, 91, of Kendal at Kennett Square, PA
died peacefully on February 13, 2015 after a long period of declining health.
Elsie was born on June 22, 1923 in Kuling on Mt. Lushan
in Jiangsi Province China
and spent most of the first twelve years of her life in Wu Hu in Anhui Province
with her Methodist missionary parents. China retained a special place in
her heart for the remainder of her life and she had been excited to return once
travel became possible again in 1980. She also made sure that both her children
travelled to China
to see the place where she had been born and grew up.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 36 years Norman
Landstrom. She is survived by her two children Peter (and wife Susan) Landstrom
of Chapel Hill, NC and Ruth Landstrom and her husband Peter Weber of Monroe,
NY, and her two grandchildren Katy Weber of Northampton, MA, and Jack Weber of
New Brunswick, NJ.
In 1945 Elsie graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in English
with social science and psychology minors from Hamline University
where she had been a Drew Scholar for four years. She began her working life in
Philadelphia, PA near the birthplaces of both of her parents working first for
a now defunct research bureau before arriving at the American Friends Service
Committee where she served as writer/editor until 1952 when she moved to
Massachusetts and began working for MIT’s Lincoln Lab in Cambridge, MA as
writer/editor of non-technical materials and later as staff on a budget control
project leaving when the project was completed.
For the next twenty years she performed the tasks of wife
and mother while becoming engaged in the local communities by volunteering for
the Needham MA Fair Housing Committee where she wrote interpretive materials and
served as an intermediary between buyers and sellers; attending Wellesley
Friends Meeting (Quakers), where she taught First Day School, wrote the
Wellesley Meeting newsletter for 7 years and served on the Library Committee;
and supported young men refusing the draft during the Vietnam War and joined
with other Quakers in peaceful protest. In the late seventies she fell in love
with a piece of property in western Massachusetts
where she said she felt at home for the first time since her childhood. She proceeded
to design and supervised the construction of the home in Conway, Massachusetts.
While actively engaged in motherhood and volunteer work she had continued to
write poetry, publishing 50 poems over the years. Throughout her life she was
compelled to communicate: telling stories, writing, drawing, and painting.
After her children were grown and her dream house built, she
could return to writing and editing on a more full-time basis and served as
Senior Editor of Word Guild from 1976-1982. As a girl in China she had
been introduced to the hospital by Dr. Hyla Watters who remained a life-long
friend. She worked closely with Dr.
Watters to edit two volumes of memoirs spanning the years she spent practicing
medicine in some of the world’s most difficult places. Hyla Doc: Surgeon in China
1924-1949 Through War and Revolution was published by QED Press in 1989 and
Hyla Doc in Africa
1950-1961 followed in 1994.
By 1980 China
was open to the west and she returned to China
for 3 months with a Columbia University program to study Chinese at East China
University. It was at
this time that she first returned to the city of her birth, Wu Hu, and Ichishan
Hospital and Medical School where she met Dr. Li who was the Chief Surgeon and
Director of the hospital. It had been originally founded as a missionary
hospital until being taken over by the People’s Republic after the revolution.
In 1982 she arranged for Dr. Li to visit the United
States on a six week tour of the medical schools of
Harvard, Johns Hopkins and East
In the fall of 1989 she led a group back to China to celebrate the Centennial
of Ichishan Hospital and later wrote a history of the hospital. .
She had told many stories to her children of her early years
and the friends she made. Later some of these stories and the story of a
missionary family in China
were combined in a biography of her father, Closing the Circle: an American Family on China published by QED Press in
It was during this period that she discovered a love and a
talent for drawing and painting and took lessons in Chinese Brush painting for
several years eventually having exhibits in several locations in western Massachusetts. She also became involved with the local
community in Conway
through participation in the Conway Historical Society and the Conway Garden
In 1998 she moved for a final time to Kendal at Kennett Square, PA
where she continued to write poetry, paint and involve herself in the local
community. In 2007 Lost Coast Press published a book of her poems, Lions Walk Around My Bed. She also
published poems in a 2007 Kendal anthology dedicated to Mary Hoxie Jones Turning Leaves, She continued to enjoy
her grandchildren as they grew and reveled in being called Granny.
Funeral arrangements by Wrisley Funeral Home. A memorial
service will be held at Kendal on March 14 at 2pm. Instead of flowers please
make donations to American Friends Service Committee at AFSC Development, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia,
or Kendal at Kendal Charitable Funds, 1107 E. Baltimore Pike, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
Expressions of Sympathy available at: