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Katharine Tilson Murray, age 97, of New London, N.H., died peacefully on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, after a full and accomplished life. Born on March 21, 1915, in New Haven, Conn., Mrs. Murray was the youngest of the three children of Marguerite North Tilson and former Connecticut House Speaker, U.S. Congressman and U.S. House Majority Leader John Quillen Tilson, who grew up on Tilson Mountain in Unicoi County.
A graduate of Smith College, class of 1937, and a 1943 graduate of New York University Medical School, she worked as a pediatrician in New Haven, Conn., before devoting her life to her family and to conservation and historic and land preservation endeavors. She was an avid hiker and skier, an award-winning sailor, and an enthusiastic protector of the natural environment.
Mrs. Murray was particularly devoted to the preservation of the Tilson family farm in Unicoi County, where she spent many weeks each year. Working through the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, she arranged for the permanent protection of the historically-significant family homestead and farm buildings and surrounding fields and mountain woodlands.
In her 80s, she began raising goldenseal at the family homestead, and, at age 93, she decided to become part of the effort to restore the American chestnut tree. In this endeavor, she connected with researchers with The American Chestnut Foundation and secured about 130 experimental chestnut seedlings which she planted at the Tennessee homestead and tended until several months before her death.
She is preceded in death by her great granddaughter Finley Willard and by her brother, John Q. Tilson Jr., and sister, Margaret Tilson Shafer.
Survivors include her four children: Eleanor Christina (Chris) McKee and husband Tom, John G. (Kip) Murray and wife Gail Kinney; daughter Margaret (Kiki) Schneider and husband Daniel, and David Kenneth Murray and wife Lotta; six grandchildren: Ethan McKee, Rachel McKee Willard, Amanda Schneider, Edward (Ned) Schneider, Marguerite Murray Wakeman and Darrell Murray and four great-grandchildren: Samantha and Haley Willard, and Ellie and Charlotte McKee.
She was a member of, or strong supporter of, more than 50 international and local charitable and community service organizations. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, 34 Wall Street, Suite 502, Asheville, NC 28801 or to The American Chestnut Foundation, 160 Zillicoa Street, Suite D, Asheville, NC 28801.
She was buried in the graveyard on the hill behind the family farm near Clearbranch. A memorial graveside service will be planned in the spring.