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Jul 6, 2015 3:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Harriet La Barre Of Sag Harbor Dies June 26

Harriet La Barre
Jul 6, 2015 3:26 PM

Mystery book writer and former Cosmopolitan magazine editor Harriet La Barre died in her sleep at Westhampton Care Center on June 26. She had recently celebrated her 99th birthday with family and friends at one of her favorite restaurants in Hampton Bays. Ms. La Barre had been a Sag Harbor resident since 1991 and for many years a familiar face on Main Street, where she could be seen walking daily with her beloved King Charles spaniel, Chester.

Born Harriet Adler on June 1, 1916, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Lillian Hertzberg and David Adler, Ms. La Barre was the youngest of three children. She liked to tell how she had begun her writing career when she was just 10 years old. As a young girl she had witnessed an accident outside her home and wrote a story about it. The Springfield newspaper published her story, the first in a long career in writing and publishing. After brief studies at Springfield College, Ms. La Barre headed to New York City. Like many young women of her era, she started her career as a secretary. However, it was not long before her employer, a publishing agent, recognized her real talent and asked her to rewrite articles and to try her hand at writing short stories. She was an immediate success. At this time she also married Robert Francis La Barre, and she remained married to him until his death in 1964.

In the 1950s, Ms. La Barre joined the Hearst Corporation as an associate beauty editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. A few years later, when Helen Gurley Brown became editor-in-chief of Cosmo and did a complete makeover of the look and tone of the magazine, Ms. La Barre was one of the few members of the staff who was invited to stay on. Under Ms. Brown, Ms. La Barre became travel editor at Cosmo and began traveling the world in search of her stories. These travel destinations became prominent themes of her mystery stories in later years. She and Ms. Gurley Brown remained good friends until Ms. Gurley Brown’s death in 2012.

Ms. La Barre’s first book, “Live Alone and Be Happier Than Anybody” was published in 1970 while she was still an editor at Cosmopolitan. “A Life of Your Own” followed in 1972. Both books were guides to living and enjoying the single life. At that time, Ms. La Barre was also writing numerous articles for Cosmopolitan and other magazines under the pen names E.M.D. Watson (Elementary, my dear Watson) and T. R. McCoy (The Real McCoy). She published her first mystery book, “Stranger in Vienna,” in 1986, followed by “The Florentine Win” in 1988 and “Blackwood‘s Daughter” in 1992. Very popular with mystery story readers, several of these books were translated into foreign languages for publication. After her move to Sag Harbor in 1991, Ms. La Barre continued to write mystery stories under the pen name Dicey Deere. Written between 2000 and 2010, this popular series of five mysteries focused on life in an Irish Village.

Ms. La Barre’s last book, “Isabel” (her favorite), was published in 2012 when she was 95 years old. The story is about a young girl growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, who tries to escape the guilt of her child‘s death. The young girl travels to Italy to recover from her tragedy. Ms. La Barre delighted friends and relatives when she read from this book at the John Jermain Library shortly after publication.

Ms. La Barre was predeceased by her brother, Harold Adler; and her sister, Edna Bachelis. She is survived by her nephew, Bruce Adler and his children, Jennifer and Miles; and her niece, Davina Adler and her children, Steven, Paul and Jonathan Justi. Her cousin, Nancy Lyness and her children, Katie and Jenny, were close companions in recent years. In addition, Ms. La Barre will be missed by many Sag Harbor friends.

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Harriet La Barre will be held in Sag Harbor later this summer.

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