She read several books a week, cooked gourmet meals for her family, found the time to teach business skills to the visual- and hearing-impaired, and raised four children.

Leatrice (Lee) Gallant, formerly of Richmond and South Portland, lived life to its fullest.

Mrs. Gallant died June 2 at an assisted living facility in Portland. She was 83 years old.

“My mother was an unbelievable character,” said her daughter, Jeanne I. Shrum of Portland. “This woman had a very commanding presence. She was a Renaissance woman, long before her time.”

Mrs. Gallant was born in Bath but moved to Angell Avenue in the Willard Beach neighborhood of South Portland at an early age. She graduated from South Portland High School in 1943.

Mrs. Gallant earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in education from the University of Maine.

She met her husband, John J. Gallant, at Willard Beach. He died in 1991.

In 1952, Mrs. Gallant moved to Michigan, where she taught school.

The family lived in Michigan from 1952 to 1966, but Mrs. Gallant found it hard to sever her ties to Maine.

As soon as school recessed for the summer, she would pack up her four children and drive back to Maine for vacation.

Shrum remembers the journey well. She said the 22-hour drive covered 996 miles, but the family rarely drove straight through.

“We had to stop at every single historical landmark,” Shrum said.

Mrs. Gallant returned to Maine to reside in the late 1960s and took a job as a social worker with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Her duties included teaching job skills and helping low-income families find work. She retired in December 1988.

Shrum said her mother was extremely bright, which may have been why she could juggle so many tasks at once.

Mrs. Gallant was a member of Mensa, the high-IQ society. “She never got an A-minus or B-plus in school,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Gallant was a voracious and speedy reader, sometimes going through more than 10 books a week.

In her later years, Mrs. Gallant developed a love of travel.

She attended the Rose Bowl football game in California three times, Mardi Gras in New Orleans three times, and visited every state except for Hawaii and Alaska. She also traveled throughout Europe, Russia and the Caribbean.

Mrs. Gallant enjoyed parades, Shrum said, which is why she went to the Rose Bowl three times. She was more interested in the parade than the football game, her daughter added.

“My mother was not a pretentious person. Things were not important to her,” Shrum said.

But if an object had any sentimental value, Mrs. Gallant would hang onto it.

“If a good friend had given her something, it became a treasure to her,” her daughter said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]