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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Cecily Legg, M.S.W.

Cecily Legg, M.S.W.

In Memoriam

by Eric and Carol Austad

Miss Cecily Legg, age 96, died after a brief illness at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor on April 30, 2012. She was born on May 9, 1915, the only child of Sidney and Susanna (Smith) Legg of Dalton Hall, Yorkshire, England. In an introduction to a series of childhood memories she recently published as part of a collection of "tales" written in part by residents of the Glacier Hills retirement community in Ann Arbor (The Man who Eats Snakes, and Other Tales, Turner Geriatric Center, Ann Arbor), she briefly and modestly described her life as follows:

"Born in 1915, my first eight years were spent in northeast England. We then moved to the southeast coast. I remained steadfastly loyal to the north- often quoting Tennyson: ‘…bright, fierce, and fickle is the South/ And dark, true, and tender is the North.’

“My first career--lasting eight years--was as a Nursery Nurse (Nannie) to families stationed overseas. I enjoyed three winters in South Iran. World War II abruptly ended that and I decided to become a hospital trained nurse. However, the nurse training school for which I was accepted had to suddenly cancel their student intake because of a direct enemy hit on the hospital. It was only a very few weeks before the call-up date for my age group, just enough time to volunteer for military service. I chose the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, asking to be attached to the medical section. As the war trailed on, civilian hospitals faced seriously depleted staffs, at which time I received discharge ‘to civilian service of greater priority need’, and so began my nursing training.

“The war over, and now a State Registered Nurse, I made my final career change when Anna Freud accepted me for training in Child/Adolescent Psychoanalysis at the Hampstead Clinic. After the four year training I stayed there on staff for eight years before moving to the States- first to Case Western Reserve University, then south to Tulane, and then back north to the University of Michigan.

“In retirement, as in childhood, I remain loyal to the North, and continue to make my home in Ann Arbor."

As a witness to and active participant in many important events of the 20th century, Miss Legg led an amazing life of adventure, service, and intellectual excellence. Born to the head groundskeeper of an English estate and his wife, a teacher, her earliest years were spent in the closing era of World War I and the propriety preserved by the survival of the Empire. Her early adult years as a nanny to children of English executives participating in the developing oil interests in Iran led to many adventures in the Middle East, often accompanied by her pet monkey. She returned to England to eventually serve as a nurse during the blitz of London, and her recall of V-I and V-2 attacks and the resolve of the English populace remained vivid throughout the remainder of her life.

After the war, her years at the Hampstead Clinic with Anna Freud and her colleagues prepared her for her remaining years as a clinician, psychoanalyst, and humanitarian. She worked with blind children whose sight was claimed by the oxygen therapy needed to save their premature lives, and bicycled around bomb-torn London for her various clinical obligations. When she eventually moved to the United States, she became a valued and beloved member of the clinical psychiatry departments at three of our prominent universities, most recently at the University of Michigan. She was also a respected and productive member of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, where she is greatly missed. Her many publications range from "cooperative play in young children" to "the dream wish", and from "the replacement child" to considerations of the Catholic Mass.

Miss Legg remained true to her proper English background to the last, and her many contributions to her patients, her friends, and the psychiatric literature are a fitting memorial to her life of service and her English pluck. Her half-brother and his wife, John and Mary Legg of Horsham, United Kingdom, share in our loss.

Friends and colleagues met to share some of those memories (she specifically declined the phrase "Celebrate a Life") at The Manor of Glacier Hills on May 20th.