The White Witch of Foxhunting Country: J.P Richardson (2015)
On any random weekday in the early 1970’s, in the bucolic village of Unionville, Pennsylvania (outside the rolling hills of America’s prestigious foxhunting country), children could be stopped in their tracks by the random appearance of a woman known among them as the witch. This realistic apparition would pull her dented blue sedan haphazardly into Prangs, the local general store and vehemently march in to acquire her groceries. The witch had a shock of white, unkempt hair, layers of coats, a trash bag on one foot with a boot on the other, and socks which were used as mittens. Sometimes a trash bag would serve as a makeshift skirt. In the most mundane communities, there is that one enigma that mirrors our witch.
Fastidiousness and cynicism prevailed and most of children and inhabitants of the village would witness these encounters from afar. Later, the store came to be owned by the Sestrich family and local lore has it that Mr. Sestrich discovered a deceased dog in the lady’s trunk with a stench which had been emanating from the vehicle for weeks. Most communities possess at least one eccentric individual and the witch was that for Unionville. Perhaps, the story would have ended there. In hindsight, there were many more layers to the existence of the notorious white witch of this small town.
In all mysteries, there lies a solution and this one was exceptional.
The woman’s name was Diana Patience Reeve (1917-2006) and she was a blue blooded descendant of President Theodore Roosevelt, Abbot Lawrence Lowell - a twenty four year president of Harvard University, and Amy Lowell, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Her parents, J. Stanley Reeve and Katherine Lowell Roosevelt were socialites and foxhunting royalty of the Radnor Foxhunt and Cheshire Foxhunt. Ms. Reeve lived at Runnymede Farm; the most eminent farm in all of Chester County, PA. Diana Reeve was herself a notable poet who published five books of poetry and traveled extensively throughout Europe. The question to ponder is how a member of such esteemed branches of American society and intellectual circles came to be notoriously known as the crazy lady of her small, charming Pennsylvania town.
Foxhunting is historically, a glamorous pastime of the wealthy in America. Three notable hubs of this elegant ritual are Lexington, Kentucky, Middleburg, Virginia, and Unionville, Pennsylvania. Jockeys from around the world come to these venues to participate in steeplechase races and vie for purses of great wealth. First lady, Jacqueline Kennedy frequented these pastoral settings for her horse riding expeditions. The family of Diana Reeve were pioneers of this movement. Where in life did Diana veer off the path of wealth and how were mental health issues dealt with in her lifetime?
To be continued: