A life of many call­ings: Chicken farmer, fox hunter, Soviet scholar

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY ME­GAN MCDONOUGH me­gan.mcdonough@wash­post.com

Kitty Weaver, who died Jan. 9 at 102, was a poul­try farmer, stu­dent of pri­ma­tol­ogy, Loudoun County so­cialite, fox hunter and scholar of Soviet-era ed­u­ca­tion prac­tices.

A 1963 visit to the Soviet Union with her hus­band, a cor­po­rate lawyer, marked a turn­ing point in her life. While play­ing ten­nis with her hus­band at a sport­ing fa­cil­ity in what was then Len­ingrad, she was shocked when asked by an in­struc­tor to leave the court and prac­tice with other novices: Rus­sian chil­dren.

It would not be her last en­counter with com­mu­nist youth. Around that same time, she trav­eled to East Berlin, where she found that young peo­ple were ea­ger to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion.

“Then I be­gan to won­der what makes some­one a Com­mu­nist,” she told the New York Times in 1971, “and I de­cided to start at the be­gin­ning with the chil­dren.”

She made 48 sub­se­quent trips to the Soviet Union, once in the com­pany of her friend For­rest Mars Sr., the candy mag­nate who cre­ated the M&M. She once told The Washington Post that she was ini­tially re­luc­tant to bring him be­cause “he, be­ing a cap­i­tal­ist, would ruin my trip.”

But Mars opened doors by pro­fer­ring M&Ms to the right Soviet bu­reau­crats. It also helped that the Rus­sians thought his name was Marx, she said.

Mrs. Weaver wrote three books, de­scrib­ing Rus­sian ed­u­ca­tion from preschool to col­lege: “Lenin’s Grand­chil­dren: Pre- school Ed­u­ca­tion in the Soviet Union” (1971), “Rus­sia’s Fu­ture: The Com­mu­nist Ed­u­ca­tion of Soviet Youth” (1981) and “Bushels of Rubles: Soviet Youth in Tran­si­tion” (1992).

In his fore­word to “Lenin’s Grand­chil­dren,” Times ed­u­ca­tion ed­i­tor Fred M. Hechinger wrote that Mrs. Weaver “prop­erly stresses what Rus­sian preschool ed­u­ca­tion does rather than what its the­o­rists claim it does.”

The two later books drew more skep­ti­cal re­views. Writ­ing in the jour­nal Europe-Asia Stud­ies, Jim Rior­dan, a Soviet ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey, called “Bushels of Rubles” an “undi­gested re­gur­gi­ta­tion of old-time pro­pa­ganda.”

“Ev­ery­one wants a bet­ter life for their chil­dren, one that is well-rounded and will pro­duce young­sters that are phys­i­cally, men­tally and morally healthy, but the Rus­sians stress moral­ity more than we do,” she told the Times. “Even the very tiny chil­dren have a sense of mo­ral re­spon­si­bil­ity to the state and to their fel­low man.”

In a 2009 Washington Post in­ter­view, she said her trips abroad piqued the in­ter­est of the CIA, and the spy agency sent agents to her Loudoun farm­house to de­brief her. Her res­i­dence, she said, be­came a so­cial meet­ing ground for ex­pa­tri­ate Rus­sians and CIA of­fi­cials.

Some­times, she added, friends ribbed her about her loy­al­ties. “I’m not a Com­mu­nist but a friend of the Soviet Union,” she said. “They al­ways wanted to go to my par­ties.”

Kather­ine Gray Dun­lap was born Sept. 24, 1910, in Frank­fort, Ky., and she grew up in St. Peters­burg, Fla., where her fa­ther was a news­pa­per colum­nist.

She was a 1932 grad­u­ate of the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary in Wil­liams­burg and re­ceived a master’s de­gree in English from Ge­orge Washington Univer­sity in 1933. In 1947, she re­ceived a sec­ond bach­e­lor’s de­gree, in agri­cul­ture, from the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

She also took classes in Vi­enna taught by the noted psy­chi­a­trist Al­fred Adler, and she did grad­u­ate work in Rus­sian stud­ies at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

In 1933, she mar­ried Henry “Hank” Weaver, a long­time le­gal ex­ec­u­tive with the At­lantic Rich­field oil com­pany who be­came a part­ner in the Washington law firm of Step­toe and John­son.

In the late 1940s, the Weavers moved from sub­ur­ban Falls Church to Glengyle, a 110-acre farm near the Loudoun com­mu­nity of Le­nah. Mrs. Weaver de­cided to use her agri­cul­ture back­ground and took up poul­try farm­ing af­ter the pre­vi­ous own­ers left her 50 leghorn chick­ens. She ac­quired 4,500 more chick­ens and be­gan sell­ing eggs to lo­cal busi- nesses.

“Hank took them to Washington in the back of his Rolls-Royce to sell to dis­trib­u­tors,” Mrs. Weaver told The Post. They even­tu­ally gave up the chicken busi­ness in 1955 af­ter be­ing ad­vised they would need an ad­di­tional 15,000 leghorns to make a profit.

Mrs. Weaver trav­eled to 135 coun­tries dur­ing her life­time. She com­muned with wild orang­utans in the forests of In­done­sia and vis­ited the Great Wall in China at 95.

She co-founded the FauquierLoudoun Day Care Cen­ter and was a former field sec­re­tary of Pied­mont Fox Hounds, both in Up­perville. She also was a past pres­i­dent of the Aldie Hor­ti­cul­ture So­ci­ety and a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Pri­mate Pro­tec­tion League, an an­i­mal rights group.

She died at her Glengyle farm home of com­pli­ca­tions from pneu­mo­nia. The death was con­firmed by her only im­me­di­ate sur­vivor, Wil­liam Dun­lap of Glengyle, a nephew she helped raise. Her hus­band died in 1995.

At the time of her death, Mrs. Weaver was work­ing on a fourth book, “You Don’t Live to Be 100 Overnight.”

COURTESY OF KATHER­INE WEAVER

Henry Weaver and Kitty Weaver in 1985 at Glengyle, the 110-acre farm in Loudoun County where they moved in the late 1940s.

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