A lighter, a metal box and documents including 1892 newspapers are tangible reminders of the connection of Pennsylvania Military College and Chester Hospital to the Leet family.
The items were donated by Carolyn Leet Phillips Erbaugh, sister of Richard Leet Phillips, who was the grandson of Chester Hospital Administrator Thomas E. Leet. Carolyn and Richard’s mother, Joyce Helen Leet, who was also the daughter of Thomas Leet, died this past March.
Upon Joyce Helen Leet’s death, Erbaugh found the lighter and silver box in her mother’s drawer with a note to donate it to Delaware County Historical Society.
Both the lighter and the box are petite in size and have a miniature logo of Pennsylvania Military College engraved on them.
The collection also includes several copies of newspapers including the Chester Times, the Delco Democrat, the Delco Republican and the Chester Evening News with their reports of the laying of the hospital’s cornerstone in July 1892.
Erbaugh recalled her brother, around 18-years-old at the time, sandblasting the Chester Hospital cornerstone and time capsule.
Perhaps that was by directive of his grandfather, Thomas E. Leet, who served as Chester Hospital’s administrator from 1947 until his sudden death. On Sunday, Dec. 15, 1957, he was stricken with a heart attack at his home at 422 E. 21st St. in Chester, then taken to Chester Hospital, where he passed.
Prior to that, he had been a part of PMC for almost 20 years - first as a cadet and a lineman on their football team then line coach of the team after his 1917 graduation. He also was a member of the engineering and military faculty at the school.
From there, he entered the Army Air Force in 1941 as a captain and helped set up the training school at Miami Beach, Fla., helping it expand from 500 men to 100,000 airmen.
In 1945, he returned to Pennsylvania Military College as an assistant to the commandant before taking the Chester Hospital position two years later.
At the time of Leet’s death, Col. Frank K. Hyatt, whom Leet had served as Adjutant at PMC, said, “Tom Leet was a fine man - one of the greatest. His word was as good as gold and he didn’t hesitate to disagree with me. He was fearless and clean-cut.”
The Leet collection is stored at the home of Delaware County Historical Society at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays. Appointments are also available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.
For more information, ways to get involved or to contribute items of historic significance, please call 610-359-0832.
Thomas E. Leet was a fixture at Pennsylvania Military College and Chester Hospital in the 20th century. Some of his items are included in Delaware County Historical Society's collection.