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Rosemary W. Leary, 66; Ex-Wife of 1960s Psychedelic Guru

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rosemary Woodruff Leary, psychedelic guru Timothy Leary’s third wife, who became a fugitive and lived underground for 23 years after her husband escaped from prison in 1970, has died. She was 66.

Leary, who was arrested along with her husband for drug possession several times in the ‘60s, died Thursday of congestive heart failure at her home in Aptos, near Santa Cruz, according to her friend Denis Berry.

Born Rosemary Sarah Woodruff in St. Louis, Leary had worked as an airline stewardess and was modeling when she met her future husband at an art exhibition opening in New York City in 1965.

She accepted an invitation to visit him at the Millbrook Estate in Dutchess County, New York, which the former Harvard psychologist was using as a center for his psychedelic research.

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Their relationship was marked by a series of arrests, the first in Laredo, Texas, in 1965 for possession of marijuana.

In 1966, Dutchess County Assistant Dist Atty. G. Gordon Liddy, the future Watergate figure, was on hand for a drug raid at the Millbrook Estate.

The Learys were married in 1967, followed by another arrest for marijuana possession in Laguna Beach in 1968.

Rosemary Leary, according to her friends, was released on bail and began raising money for her husband’s legal defense fund.

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Timothy Leary, facing up to 20 years for two drug possession convictions, was sent to the Men’s Colony, a state prison in San Luis Obispo County, in 1970.

He wasn’t there long.

With the aid of his wife, the Weather Underground and others, Leary escaped by shimmying across a telephone line to the other side of the prison fence and a waiting car.

With forged passports, the couple fled the country.

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They found refuge with the Black Panthers in Algeria until the Panthers “detained” Leary and his wife. They managed to escape and fled to Switzerland.

Their marriage strained by their life in exile, the couple separated in 1971.

In 1973, Leary was detained while trying to enter Afghanistan and was returned to the United States.

After serving time in California’s Folsom State Prison, he was released on parole in 1976. The Learys divorced the same year.

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But Rosemary Leary remained underground for 23 years, living in Afghanistan, Sicily and Central and South America through the ‘70s.

After secretly returning to the United States in 1980, she lived under the name Sarah Woodruff and held a variety of jobs on Cape Cod, in San Francisco and in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where she managed an inn.

But in 1993, she resurfaced and had her legal record cleared of the bail-jumping and fugitive charges with the help of a lawyer obtained by her ex-husband.

The pair had reestablished contact a couple of years earlier, according to Berry, and had resumed a close friendship.

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By 1995, the onetime leader of the hippie drug culture was dying of inoperable prostate cancer.

“I think there is an added sweetness to Tim now,” Rosemary Leary told The Times. “In the past you would say he was brilliant, bigger than life, all those things, but not so much a sweet person. Now there is a gentleness about him.”

Leary died May 31, 1996.

In the last years of her life, his ex-wife wrote freelance articles and managed the trust that administered Leary’s copyrights and archives, according to her friends.

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A natural raconteur, she lectured to college students about the psychedelic revolution.

And at the time of her death, she was working on the final draft of her memoirs.

Berry described her friend as “bright, funny and warm.”

“She was just kind of establishing a group of friends [in recent years],” Berry said, “after all those years she was on the run and couldn’t tell people who she was. This was the first time she had to be social again and re-integrate her life, so she wasn’t constantly looking over her shoulder.”

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Leary is survived by her brother, Gary Woodruff of Long Beach.

Services are pending.


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