From Director Jackie Spainhour:
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and known, in that exact moment, that it was the last conversation you would ever have with them? And in that moment, the reality began to weigh on your soul, crushing it and forcing it into a dark cavity, trying to bury itself deep inside you? I recently shared a moment like this with a woman I have come to call a dear friend. Her name was Jean, and she was the most beautiful, gentle soul I have ever had the privilege to know. In 2013, Jean rang our happy little doorbell and walked into our lives, forever changing them. Her famed British accent was like a gentle sea breeze- calming and invigorating all at once. I could sit for hours on end just listening to her say the alphabet. A retired English teacher, Jean was always quick to correct our grammar (she would pick this post apart, but with very good manners of course). She read and reread copy after copy of my manuscript for my first book, scratching little red words of correction and encouragement into the worn pages. She made even the most mundane things seem magical- from the way she cut the crust off of cucumber sandwiches to her enthusiasm for rereading children’s books while waiting to give the next tour. I was so inspired by her child-like sense of wonder; she always seemed to find the best in people and situations. We spent countless afternoons sharing a pot of tea and gossiping about our latest family dramas and forging a friendship that knew no age. Jean was decades older than me, but we were kindred spirits- we even share a birthday! She saw me through some of the darkest and most wonderful times of my life- a failed relationship, a loss of confidence in myself, a wedding to my best friend, abrupt ending to friendships, and more recently the birth of my first child. She lent an ear when it was needed, and put in her two cents when she knew I would reject it but needed to hear it. She constantly reminded me that high tea is not, in fact, the fancy tea Americans think it is. She lent me books on how to be frugal when I told her I spent too much money on shoes at the mall. She emailed recipes and dug up phone numbers for me when I needed advice on when babies are allowed to wear sunscreen. She sent beautiful, hand-written holiday and thank you cards and took care of one of our docents when she lost her husband. She hosted baby showers and offered to press and fold my laundry when being a new mommy was too much for me. She was simply amazing. She has been a rock for me over the years, and it pains me greatly that I will never hear that infectious, polite laugh again, or share battle stories, or plot to take trips to England together. But, how can I be sad when I had the privilege to know such a brilliant, inspiring woman? Who am I to question fate, or to shake my fist threateningly at the sky? Jean lived her life in a way that was as beautiful as she was, and can we really ask for more than that? As I stood in her living room, watching that strong woman I knew and loved slowly deteriorate, I knew it was the last time I would see her. I shared that moment with her husband and her best friend. We were blindsided- we hadn’t known the gravity of the situation until we walked into that home on a rainy afternoon, a basket of goodies in hand to help her feel better. “We miss you and want you to come back,” said her friend. “I’m sorry dear, I won’t be coming back,” she said with a glimmer of sadness and, dare I say relief, in her eyes, “but I will take some beautiful memories with me.” So will we, Jean, so will we.
In memory of our dear friend and docent Jean, the Hunter House Victorian Museum will host a memorial tea for our docents and will close on Sunday, September 25th. We will preserve her memory in the form of a plaque on our garden wall, a place she cherished.
Please share memories of her below, so that we may reflect on the wonderful woman she was and the impact she has had on us all.