In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Harriett Orr Lennon, 100

Harriet Orr Lennon, 1920-2021

Harriett Orr Lennon, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among Southeast Asian Affinity Peoples in Thailand, died Feb. 26, 2021. She was 100.

For the last 18 years, she had been a resident of Matthews Glen (formerly Plantation Estates), a retirement community in Matthews, North Carolina.

She was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Nov. 17, 1920, to the late N. J. Orr and Mittie Bradley Orr. She grew up in Derita and Charlotte, North Carolina, and attended Mars Hill College. She met her future husband, Samuel Judson Lennon in Louisville, Kentucky, while continuing her education at the Woman’s Missionary Training School, where she received the Bachelor of Religious Education. They began 68 years of marriage on May 19, 1946. Harriett and Judson served churches in Durham, Raeford and Albemarle, North Carolina, until 1955.

At that time, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed Harriett and Judson missionaries to Thailand. According to her family, in the summer of 1955, the family began a month-long journey to Bangkok, where Harriett and Judson spent their first two years studying the Thai language for eight hours a day.

For more than 30 years, Harriett and Judson dedicated their lives to the Thai people, said her family. Harriett served in many positions, including treasurer of the Thailand Baptist Mission and as hostel mother for missionary children whose parents served outside of Bangkok. Judson was the first pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church, the first Thai Baptist Church in Thailand, professor in the Thailand Baptist Seminary and liaison from the Baptist Mission to the Royal Thai Government.

Lennon grew up in First Baptist Church of Charlotte, and they supported her throughout her missionary career.

Lennon lived an unexpected life and did it extraordinarily well, said her children. When David was 7 and Lee was 4, they wrote, she called a family meeting. She showed the children on a world globe where Thailand was in relation to North Carolina and then asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun to live on the other side of the world?”

In retirement in Charlotte, Harriett and Judson continued to serve others, establishing relationships with the Laotian community in the Charlotte area, often teaching English, providing transportation support and translation services.

Judson passed away in 2014. Shortly thereafter, Harriett moved into assisted living at Matthews Glen. In the past two years, she was a resident in the memory unit. Her family indicated that she survived a month long COVID-19 infection, remaining asymptomatic throughout and celebrated her 100th birthday just three months before her death.

Harriett is survived by her two sons, David Stancil Lennon and Samuel Lee Lennon, and their families.

Read an obituary here.