Jean Hesketh Hershey
Jean Hesketh Hershey was an independent woman, legal secretary, successful real estate broker and insurance agent, wife and mother. She was raised primarily by my grandmother, Anna Suplick. Born in 1910, Jean did not have the opportunity to attend college; rather, she attended secretarial school and used those skills throughout her career. She and my uncle married, made their home in Mountainside, New Jersey, and became parents in 1940, when Jean was thirty. Jean Hershey was actively involved in civic affairs. Some of her accomplishments included being personnel director of the Mountainside Civil Defense Council during World War II, a reporter for The Springfield Sun from 1942 to 1946, and a trustee of the Mountainside Public Library. She also was an active member of the Blue Star Garden Club, a charter member of the Birch Hill Civic Association, chairman of the Mountainside Shade Tree Committee and a founder of the Community Presbyterian Church. Jean Hershey was a member of the Westfield Board of Realtors and ran her own real estate and insurance agency called Cross County Realty. Illness forced her to retire in 1970. She wrote the book, The History of Mountainside, that was published in 1945. She believed it was her most significant professional accomplishment. In its third printing, the book now includes a dedication to Jean Hershey for her efforts at preserving the heritage of the borough.
It is a privilege to recognize my aunt, Jean Hesketh Hershey, in the Women's Plaza of Honor for her role in my life as substitute mother, mentor, safe harbor and friend. Aunt Jean (after whom I was named - she was christened Jennie Anna Lillian Hesketh) provided me with a home away from home during boarding school and college when my mother and father (her younger brother) lived overseas. She gave me space to find my own way but thankfully didn't hesitate to admonish me if a choice was not wise or safe. Because my parents were in Australia during my first year of college, she was the first family member to comfort me when I flew to New Jersey for the Christmas holidays where I learned of the unexpected death of my brother. Years earlier, in 1953 she arranged for the rental of a little duplex on Long Beach Island near Barnegat Light for a summer vacation after my father's first assignment in the jungles of Colombia, South America. It was to her house our entire family, when we lived in the States for brief periods, traveled for Thanksgiving dinner. I remember raucous and fun gatherings around her dining room table that in later years became an after dinner refuge where I found a listening ear, good advice as well as hilarious jokes. Family circumstances brought her grandson into her household where he also found her dining room table to be a place of refuge and learning. When my grandmother became ill, my aunt opened her home to her, as well. After the death of my uncle, my aunt retired and moved to Rhode Island to be closer to her daughter and her grandchildren. Several years later, after my marriage and move to Tucson, I traveled east to spend a week with Aunt Jean and remember hours of playing scrabble, talking, and taking walks in the town where she eventually bought a home for my cousin and remodeled a basement apartment for herself. We corresponded often. I miss her.
Jennifer Hesketh Aviles, March 2006