Monday, February 16, 2015
Jean was born in Manchester, NH in December 1923. She's just celebrated her 91st birthday. She told me a little about her early life in New Hampshire where her Dad delivered ice before moving his family to Berlin, NH to work in a paper mill. The family always struggled. "He was a worker", she recalls, who got off work at 8:00 AM, went to work on a friend's farm, came home for a few hours sleep, then back to the mill. He later lost an arm in a work accident. Jean's mother died when she was 13 and at age 16 Jean "took off to find work in Hartford, CT where they told me money grew on trees".
She stayed for 25 years. In 1947 Jean married Norman Cormier from Van Buren, Maine. Norman had served in the Pacific during World War II and they settled for a while in Maine where he was a policeman. Jean and Norman never had children, though they both loved them. Norman did not want to adopt, so they grew very close to all their nieces and nephews. When Norman retired they bought a small motor home and traveled for 13 years. They saw every state and Canadian province. During this time they took summer jobs in parks including Grand Teton and Flaming Gorge. They spent winters in Mesa, AZ for 11 years, then Wildwood, FL for 14 years.
Over the years they took their nieces and nephews on many trips and today, says Jean, "I am being repaid a hundredfold" by her large family. Norman died of a stroke in 1996 and Jean volunteered at Androscoggin Valley Hospital for the next 14 years, being awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2002. She said, "I don't want to die sitting in a chair".
Jean's sister lived in Vermont and she had always wanted to move near her, so she pulled up stakes and moved to Burlington. She fell in love with the city "It's alive!", and enjoyed seeing all the young people and activity. I met Jean at my water aerobics class where she is a regular. I attended her 90th birthday party with some of our pool friends. The happy, loving crowd of relatives and friends was pretty amazing.
Jean suffered a heart attack and bypass surgery in the early 2000's, then a mild stroke in December 2013. But she's been religious about exercise since moving to Vermont saying "I can see what exercise is doing". Her doctor tells her she's as healthy as she is today because she pushes herself to the water. At 91 she is a cheerful inspiration to the rest of us over at The Edge.
Jean says, "I don't hope for myself because I am on the way out. My hopes are for the younger generation, stay positive, stay away from drugs. 'Yes' is easy - 'No' is hard".