51 RI Bar J., No. 5, Pg. 7 (March, 2003). Remembering An Unforgettable Woman.


Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 51.

51 RI Bar J., No. 5, Pg. 7 (March, 2003).

Remembering An Unforgettable Woman

Remembering An Unforgettable WomanPATRICK T. CONLEY, J.D., PH.D.Seymour Lederberg, Gail Conley, Justice Victoria Lederberg, Pat Conley, and Gigi Notarianni enjoy Constitution Day 2000 at Gale Winds in Bristol, RI.

Monday, December 30, 2002, was the start of another workweek. Before breakfast I went to the edge of my patio to retrieve the morning Providence Journal. It lay folded, face up, so the lead headline immediately caught my eye. At first glance the name "Lederberg" registered, but before I could speculate on what landmark opinion she might have penned, my gaze descended to the fourth and final line, "fatally stricken." Shock, incredulity, then sadness came to me in rapid succession. How could this be? How could such a vibrant devotee of physical fitness and preventive medicine meet such a fate? I shared the news with my wife Gail; her reactions were the same. Never were we more mindful of the Biblical description for such an occurrence: "Death comes like a thief in the night!"

Ironically, the newspaper that brought such grim tidings was delivered to the exact spot where Victoria Lederberg, her husband Seymour, Gail, and I had posed for pictures on Constitution Day 2000, following lectures at my home by constitutional scholars Gordon Wood and Jack Greene. Justice Lederberg and Dr. Seymour attended each of the three Constitution Day observances held thus far, and Justice Lederberg rose to offer her perceptive commentary at every one. She relished the academic life and enjoyed the give-and-take of intellectual discussion. She was, of course, a professor before she was a lawyer, and her husband was a distinguished professor as well. In fact, Seymour was her professor as she earned her A.B. and M.S. in biology at Brown University. Like Prince Albert to Queen Victoria, he became not only her mentor but her spiritual guide, her scholarly collaborator, her political advisor, her husband of forty-three years, and her soul mate - the wind beneath her wings.

Victoria Santopietro's wings took her to soaring heights - from a humble nest on Shafter Street in Providence's Silver Lake neighborhood to a doctorate in psychology from Brown, a professorship in that discipline at Rhode Island College, a law degree from...

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