Community remembers Mary Kidd

  • Mary Kidd Courtesy photo

  • Mary Kidd Courtesy photo

  • Mary Kidd, left, meets with the Prime Minister of Japan Nobusuke Kishi and his wife Ryoko in 1960.  Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, December 06, 2017 5:27PM

Steve Jackson endeared to the woman he would come to recognize as a surrogate mother since their very first encounter.

Jackson, who had recently moved into his Thorndike Pond Road home in Jaffrey, was looking across the road when he observed a car pulling into the driveway. Out of the driver’s seat popped out a then 92-year-old Mary Kidd, who began bringing groceries into her home.

Jackson – a former advertising manager for Anheuser-Busch – immediately noticed Kidd carrying a 24-pack of Bud Light from the car, setting the stage for a friendship that would last until Kidd’s death on Nov. 28. 

“We became very close friends and over time, I learned all of these great stories [about her life],” said Jackson. “You could point to any photo inside her house and she would tell you the story.”

Kidd, who was born to Czechoslovak immigrants, combined her education and court stenographer talents to obtain a job as a foreign staff officer and a translator at the US Embassy in Prague during the beginning of the Cold War. 

Most notably, Kidd was one of two observers from the Embassy allowed to attend the trial of William N. Oatis, an Associated Press correspondent who had been charged with espionage in Czechoslovakia in 1951, according information on the U.S. Office of the Historian website. No western “newsmen” were permitted to attend the trial.

“I would always kid with Mary and ask if she was a spy,” said Jackson, who said Kidd traveled to a great number of events and countries, including the Bretton Woods Conference, where the International Monetary Fund was founded in 1944. 

Kidd, then known by her maiden name Horak, prepared a verbatim record of the interrogation of Oatis, as well as a condensed record of the remainder of the trial. Her verbatim report was published in full by the Department of State and showed several occasions where Oatis had clearly given prepared answers, according to a memoir written by Ellis Briggs, a former US ambassador to seven countries. 

Oatis was sentenced to ten years in prison but was later pardoned and set free in May of 1953 after “President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote an irate letter to the Czechoslovak Government,” according to his 1997 obituary, which appeared in the New York Times. 

“She had a wealth of memories and stories to share,” said Lisa Bostnar, an actress and Jackson’s wife. “She was a single woman behind the Iron Curtain. She traveled everywhere.”

Kidd and her husband Coburn – who passed in 1981 – moved to Jaffrey in 1969, where Kidd would lay down roots. She was known for helping out with a number of organizations in the region including the Jaffrey Woman’s Club, Shelter from the Storm, St. Patrick’s Church, and the Jaffrey Civic Center. 

“She would help with anything you asked her to,” said Bill Driscoll, who said Kidd was one of the first people he met when he retired to Jaffrey over 20 years ago. “She was a wonderful lady with a sharp mind.”

Driscoll said one of his fondest moments involving Kidd was about 12 years ago when he lost his wife. Driscoll said Kidd took him under her wing, making sure that he was properly fed. 

One night Driscoll’s son was visiting from New York City and the two shared a spaghetti pie made by Kidd. 

“My son Bill said it was one of the most delicious things he had ever eaten and told me to marry her,” said Driscoll. “We never ended up marrying, but I did tell her that her cooking had gone a long way.”