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Briarcliff School Mourns Champion Of Special Needs Children

The late Anne Harmon, left, a champion of children with special needs, is shown with the late actress Julie Harris, a longtime supporter of The Clear View School in Briarcliff Manor. Harmon died recently at her Ardsley-on-Hudson home.
The late Anne Harmon, left, a champion of children with special needs, is shown with the late actress Julie Harris, a longtime supporter of The Clear View School in Briarcliff Manor. Harmon died recently at her Ardsley-on-Hudson home. Photo Credit: Provided

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Anne Harmon, a champion of special-needs children, is being mourned by a Briarcliff Manor school that she helped found.

Harmon was a parent, staff member, volunteer, supporter and board member at The Clear View School, which was founded half a century ago to provide academic and therapeutic programs to children dealing with mental illnesses and emotional problems.

The Ardsley-on-Hudson resident, who had a special-needs child of her own, took on all those roles “with enthusiasm and joy,” according to school spokesman, Audrey Warn.

Harmon died recently at her home, the school said Tuesday.

She was personally responsible for the school’s “longtime relationship” with actress Julie Harris, one the the school’s “most loyal and generous benefactors.”

Originally called the Scarborough School, it was founded in 1913 by Frank and Narcissa Vanderlip for their six children and the children of friends and supporters.

(Vanderlip was a banker and had served as an assistant secretary of the treasury at the turn of the 20th century.)

When the Scarborough School closed, its theater stood empty for many years.

It was restored in 1983 by the Greater Ossining Arts Community Theater, and a year later, its stage was graced by Harris in a solo performance of “Currier Bell, Esquire,” a dramatization of Charlotte Brontë’s life.

The theater was rededicated as the Julie Harris Theater and was used by Briarcliff High School until it built its own in 1998.

Harris lived in Irvington in the 1970s when The Clear View School rented space in Dobbs Ferry. The school moved to Briarcliff Manor in 1981.

Harris was named honorary chairwoman of the school’s board of directors, a title she retains posthumously.

In 1977, Harmon and Harris collaborated on a major fundraiser for the school, which saw Harris take the stage as poet Emily Dickinson in a performance of the William Luce play, “The Belle of Amherst.”

Harmon was affiliated with The Thursday Club -- a philanthropic foundation that makes grants to non-profit community agencies.

According to Warn, Harmon introduced the club’s members to the school’s mission, and “they responded with great kindness and generosity,” making many grants to the school.

Harmon’s fellow school board member and friend, Carol Deer, of New York City, credited Harmon with teaching her about the work of the school that serves mentally ill and emotionally disabled children.

“There are many good causes and charities but in this case I can see the results. I’m lucky; I have four nephews that never required the specialized care these children do. I owe it to them, and to all children, to do what I can to help,” Deer said.

Charles Devlin, the school’s executive director, called Harmon “a gentlewoman of strength, generosity and grace.”

“She proved (her) passion over and over again by tireless and generous service in so many different ways,” he said Tuesday.

Harmon is survived by her husband, Howard (Bunky); two children, Julie and Jamie; and a grandson, Julian.

In recognition of her “unwavering devotion to the school,” Harmon’s family has requested that donations may be made in her honor to The Clear View School and Day Treatment Center, 480 Albany Post Road, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., 10510, Warn said.

For more information, visit the school’s website by clicking here.

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