It was called the “Babylift” — volunteers packing babies into cardboard grocery-store boxes and loading them onto the helicopters in an airlift authorized by President Gerald Ford. Although some children were killed when the first helicopter crashed, hundreds of others were saved. And dozens wound up in the tender care of Grace Kight.
Grace Kight, a board member of Welcome House, an adoption agency founded by Bucks County writer Pearl Buck, a retired Philadelphia-area college teacher and administrator and a devoted Quaker, died April 25. She was 90 and lived in Kennett Square but had formerly lived in Concordville and Media.
When the rescued children started to arrive in the U.S., Grace and her fellow volunteers welcomed them to a new life in the land of freedom.
She arranged for 20 children to stay at Concord Friends Meeting, of which she was a member.She took in 46 others herself from the last flight out of Saigon. She cared for them in her 17-room house in Media for two weeks until they could be placed with families.
They ranged in age from 3 months to 7 years. They slept in cribs and on 15 mattresses that Grace hastily borrowed from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Wynnewood. More than 100 volunteers flowed in and out of the house to help.
“People fell out of the air, dying to volunteer,” Grace told an Inquirer reporter in 2005. “At the end of the day, they would seek me out and say, ‘Thanks for letting me take part in this.’ ”
Grace and her late husband, Stanford Steele Kight, were always concerned with society’s unfortunates. In 1960, they crossed the country with their daughter, Kristin, then 2, surveying the needs of American Indians living on reservations on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee.
“As members of the Religious Society of Friends, they were involved with concerns of victims of war, and particularly of children who suffer from the effects of conflict,” her family said.
Grace was born in Philadelphia, the fifth of the six children of Jacob T. Lentz and Selma Weber Lentz. She graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1938 and went on to Temple University. She she received a bachelor’s degree from Temple in 1942 and a master’s from Columbia University in 1945.
Grace became a reading specialist and master teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston Lower School and the Food Trades Vocational High School, both in New York. Later, she was an assistant professor in Temple University’s Department of Education, a teacher at Wilmingon High School, associate professor in Drexel University’s Management Development Laboratory, and a professor of sociology at Delaware County Community College, from which she retired in 2001 after a 60-year career in education.
She and her husband taught together at Temple and at the Krisheim Quaker Study Center, in Chestnut Hill. He died in 1994.
Besides her daughter Kristin, she is survived by another daughter, Amy M. Toombs; two sons, Tony K. and Nicholas A. Kight; seven grandchildfren and seven great-grandhildren.
Services: Were Sunday. Burial was in the Concord Friends Meeting Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the Grace M. Kight Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Nicholas A. Kight, 116 W. Fifth St., Media Pa., 19063. n