Louise Sartor Harvey

September 21, 1937April 25, 2021

A mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Lou was born the youngest of three sisters in Washington, DC to Agostino and Emilia (Cassini) Sartor who had immigrated from the Friuli region of Italy. She lived in the District and Northern Virginia her whole life. A life she met by planting her feet squarely and announcing herself loudly to everyone and everything that came her way—more often than not with a laugh.

After graduating from Holy Trinity Catholic High School in 1955, she became a secretary at the CIA. Lou married Gerald O’Brien in 1957, moved to the “country” on West Ox Rd. in Fairfax, and they had three children: Kathy, Bill, and Sean. After Gerry passed away in 1966, Lou married James Harvey in 1967, who had two children by his previous marriage—Frank and Carol. They lived in Vienna. Then twins came along: Pam and Andrew. Thus Lou raised seven children.

She raised us as one family. Because of her we were not as dysfunctional as we should have been. She was adamantly against differentiating; ahead of her time really. She let kids be kids. And raised us to be like her: self-possessed, independent, assertive, ready to laugh. Motherhood was her calling, and she was a great mom.

Grandma, Great-Grandma, mentor (through Al-Anon and Al-Ateen), bricklayer, gardener, baker, seamstress, tailor (a sartor re-sartored!), she-who-could-knit-anything-and-do-it-backwards, crossword puzzler, beauty queen, bowler, collector of trivets (and keys and locks), concert-goer (Rush, Kansas, Yes), pickle-ball champ, mahjong amateur, she who once out-hustled Tony Randall for the last coffee cake at Giant, baseball fan extraordinaire, certified tactical driver.

That last one was a bit of a mystery to us for a long time. After her second husband, Jim, passed away in 1991, she worked full-time at the now defunct Hancock (née Minnesota) Fabrics in Vienna for several years until she got recruited by the CIA’s Field Tradecraft course. She became a training surveillant: a paid civilian tasked to surveil soon-to-be-agents by foot, car, or metro as they practiced dead drops and rendezvoused with pretend marks and assets in training exercises around the DC area. To do so she had behind-the-wheel lessons in escape and evasion at the CIA’s driving course. Nothing made her day like going undetected by an agent in training. Coolest. Grandma. Ever.

From bluegrass to opera to ragtime, her love of music was eclectic. If Pavarotti was the only tenor for her, then her favorite baritone would have to have been Doc Watson. Her enthusiasms were similarly varied; she was a fan of many things. Chocolate, the Redskins Football Team, Orioles, Senators, the Nats, Louis L’Amour, shortstops (especially Eddie Brinkman and Cal Ripken), Dave Butz, Howie Long, coffee, Superman, did I say Cal Ripken? General Hospital, Johnny Carson, Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post’s crossword puzzle, words, reading, Verdi, Rossini, Scott Joplin, Giant (not Safeway, the old A&P, or Magruders), the Lone Ranger, fireworks on the 4th of July (but never down on the Mall!).

Thanksgiving was when she made her famous knot rolls and top crust apple pie. That was the holiday all the kids and grandkids who could, would always come home for. We had a lot to give thanks over. A long-time sufferer from Alzheimers, Lou finally succumbed to kidney failure at the age of 83 in Leesburg’s Spring Arbor Memory Care where she lived for the past several years. Dementia, diabetes, end-stage renal failure, partial blindness and deafness—the news here is that this tough world proved tougher than Mom. Though acquainted with grief, or maybe because of her sorrows (early and late), she possessed an irrepressible joy. When dementia had taken all apparent memory of us, that joy was still there as a ready, familiar smile, protecting her from bitterness and sullenness.

Hers is an indomitable spirit. Lou is survived by her older sister, Elsie Fuller, the seven children she raised and their spouses – Frank Harvey, Kathy Sells (Andy), Bill O’Brien (Kathy), Carol Dapogny, Sean O’Brien, Pam Harvey (Robert Krass), and Andrew Harvey (Daphne) – sixteen grandchildren as well as ten great-grandchildren and counting.


  • Graveside Service

    Wednesday, May 5, 2021


Louise Sartor Harvey

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