In Memory

Clarita Virginia Heath (Bright) - Class Of 1934

Clarita Virginia Heath (Bright)


The slopes were steep, the climbs up arduous. "But we were young and excited to be there, to be part of the Olympics," Clarita Heath Bright would tell her children years later. The difficulty she faced in pioneering in her sport is hard to imagine today. As a member of the first US women's Olympic ski team at Garmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany, in 1936, she, like her American comrades in schussing, had to pay her way to the scene and furnish her own uniform.

"We 'girls,' as we called ourselves then, bought red knee sox, blue knickers, and white parkas. The men's team was fully under written and," she said with a laugh, "provided with much warmer attire. We froze, but it was still fun for an 18-year-old."

Moreover, recalled the intrepid Mrs. Bright, who died at her Brookline home October 12, 2003 at age 87, it was a time before ski lifts. After each run, downhill or slalom, they trudged back up the hill for more. There were no medals for the US originals, but much satisfaction in representing their country and starting a rich American Olympic tradition. In fact, Mrs. Bright nearly didn't make it to the starting line. An Olympic physician rated her too small at 5-foot-2, but those frigid uphill climbs belied any fragility. She persisted and in the trials won her place as one of four on the team.

She, a Californian born in Pasadena and raised in South Pasadena, also met her future husband, Bostonian Alexander H. Bright. He competed for the US men's team that year, and they became friends. Sixteen years after the death of her first husband, William W. Reiter, a Navy pilot lost in the Pacific during World War II, she wed Bright and moved to Brookline. Her husband would become a leading figure in American downhill racing.

Not long before the '36 Winter Games, Mrs. Bright learned to ski on a family visit to Kitzbuhel, Austria, and took to it like an Alpine native. She competed successfully in Europe and in the Western United States, taught skiing at Sun Valley, Idaho, and coached actress Ingrid Bergman for skiing scenes in the film "Spellbound."

A skier into her 80s, she kept her hand in the Olympics as a documentary movie photographer of the Winter Games at Oslo in 1952 and Cortina D'Ampezzo in 1956. Long a member of the Women's Travel Club of Boston, she was game to go anywhere, including untracked areas of Borneo on one trip. She served as an overseer of the Museum of Science, president of the Milton Garden Club, and director of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. In 1968, Mrs. Bright was inducted into the US Ski Hall of Fame.

She leaves two daughters, Candy Reiter Midkiff (SPHS '61) of Lopez Island, Washington, and Sierra Heath Bright of Dover; a son, Cameron Bright of Freeport, Maine; and six grandchildren.

The Boston Globe, October 17, 2003