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Donald R. ‘Pete’ Hart Jr.

CORNWALL — Donald R. “Pete” Hart Jr., beloved husband of Elvira “Vera” (Horvath) Hart, died April 17, 2011. He was 93. A lifelong resident of New Britain, Conn., until late in his retirement years, he was truly part of the “Greatest Generation.”

He was the first-born child of Elise (Russell) and Donald R. Hart and grew up on Hart Street in New Britain. He was one of the first four graduates of Mooreland Hill School in Berlin, Conn., and then went on to graduate from Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Conn., and Amherst College in Massachusetts. He also took courses at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Pete was multilingual, speaking more than 13 languages (nine of them fluently), and later taught French, German, Spanish and Latin after his graduation from Amherst. At one point he was head of the language department of Avon Old Farms School.

It was his innate language abilities that helped shape his military career. Drafted early in World War II he was one of 250 Americans asked to volunteer to start the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA).

He served with distinction, handling French sabotage operations in occupied France, running a spy “transit station” and capturing Nazi collaborators in Paris after its liberation. He was especially pleased to receive the Legion of Honor medal from the French government for his efforts, the highest award they bestow on a non-French citizen. After discharge he served in the U.S. Army Reserve for a total service of 33 years, retiring as a colonel, with top secret clearance.

His government service didn’t end there. Vera, whom he married in 1979, and Pete volunteered for the disaster relief program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Being on call 24/7 they responded to more than 30 disasters between 1983 to 1999, earning nothing but expenses. From 1981 onward he was also a member of the National Defense Executive Reserve, a government organization set up to help the nation survive a nuclear attack. He was a true patriot.

Pete loved the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The Hart family has had homes on the island since 1811 with most of them in the community of Hart Haven and Up-Island in Chilmark. It was there that Pete organized an annual family gathering over Labor Day.Relatives and friends from all over the island and mainland came to “The Bash” each year. His last island home was in Vineyard Haven.

In addition to his devoted wife Vera, Pete is survived by a sister, Mary Jane Clark of Kent; a brother, Dr. David L. Hart of Oak Bluffs, Mass.; his three children(from a previous marriage), Peter R. Hart and his wife, Andrea, of New Britain, Christine H. Hart and her husband, William F. Morlock, of Brattleboro, Vt., and Philip D. Hart and his wife, Carol Gauthier, of Oakland, Maine; his six grandchildren, Brittany, Zachery, Ben, Alexis, Nicholas and Jennifer; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his brother Henry Russell Hart.

Pete was a lifelong Episcopalian. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on April 26 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury.

Interment with full military honors will take place on April 27 at 1 p.m. at the Bourne National Veterans Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., as per Colonel Hart’s request.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Sheriffs Meadow Foundation, Wakeman Conservation Center, 57 David Ave., Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, online at www.sheriffsmeadow.org, or The Family Council, Noble Horizons Retirement Community, 17 Cobble Road, Salisbury, CT 06068, online at www.noblehorizons.org.

Arrangements have been made through the Newkirk-Palmer Funeral Home in North Canaan. Condolences may be sent to the funeral home or email bm2hart@msn.com.

We close with a direct quote from Donald R. “Pete” Hart Jr. taken from a self obit he wrote a few years ago: “Now, you have read quite enough, and so I bid you all adieu.”