Ursula Brecknell

Obituary of Ursula Brecknell

Montgomery -- Ursula Colbourne Brecknell, 89, of Belle Mead, passed away peacefully Thursday in Princeton. She maintained a keen interest in the world, spanning the literary, fine arts, history and government; a fact reflected in her life's work as editor, author on history and architecture, public servant, and consultant and lecturer. She was widely known for her extensive knowledge of local history and Dutch architecture and her public service. A native of Staten Island, she attended Barnard College of Columbia University graduating in 1944 with a BA in English. Her earliest jobs with the Episcopal Church Headquarters and the Methodist Board of Missions followed her literary interests doing editorial work and research. After a move to Montgomery Township in 1964, she proofread manuscripts for Praeger Publishers and became editor of a foundling newspaper entitled The Montgomery Citizen, the township's first paper. Following the Citizen's demise, she produced a newsletter for the Educational Testing Service. Volunteerism and a sense of public service drew her to become a charter member of the Montgomery Township League of Women Voters, for which she offered to write a chapter on local history for their publication, Know Your Township. At the invitation of Montgomery's Bicentennial Committee, it was expanded into a book, Montgomery Township: An Historic Township, 1702-1972, covering the township architectural heritage and history. In the course of time she served on the Environmental Commission and as an advisor to the Planning Board. She was instrumental in establishing the Landmarks Preservation Commission and chaired the Ad Hoc Preservation Study Committee charged with creating an Historic Preservation Ordinance to preserve historic elements in Montgomery. In 1987, her expertise was recognized when Governor Kean appointed her to the state's Historic Sites Council. She was a charter member of the Van Harlingen Historical Society in which she remained active until her death. Over the years she served as president, vice-president, librarian and editor of the newsletter, which she published for over 30 years. The Society's popular and long-running fund-raising events: May in Montgomery and the Wine & Cheese party, are part of her legacy. Mrs. Brecknell was also a trustee of the Somerset County Historical Society for which she produced an anniversary edition of their former Quarterly 1912-19. Her role as Montgomery Township Official Historian led to commissions for regional historical architecture monographs out of which came a consulting business, Historic House Surveys . She wrote two books: Montgomery Township: An Historic Community 1702-1972 and Hillsborough Township: An Architectural History. At the time of her death she was collaborating on a book of Dutch Architecture in NJ. She placed many historic Montgomery properties on the State and National Register of Historic Places: the Gulick House and the historic districts of Bridgepoint, River Road, and Blawenburg. She also prepared the Historical National Register nomination the Doris Duke estate. Mrs. Brecknell is survived by two daughters and son-in-laws, Leslie Brecknell and Carlos Godinez of Belle Mead, Pamela Brecknell and Philippe Lewkowicz in France, and four grandchildren, Christine and Sebastian Godinez and Noelle-Elizabeth and Alexander Lewkowicz. A viewing will take place at The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Ave., Princeton on Thursday, Dec. 29 from 6-8pm. A church service and reception will take place at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer St, Princeton on Friday, Dec. 30 at 10am. Contributions to the Foundation Fighting Blindness are requested in lieu of flowers.
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