Jessie Adelaide (Harding) Fallon January 14, 1943 - June 22, 2013 age 70, of Minneapolis. Survived by husband of 44 years, Frank; children, Jennifer Fallon Montrella (Ben Montrella), Rebecca Fallon and David Fallon; and grandson, Eli Montrella. Also survived by other relatives and innumerable friends. Preceded in death by her parents, James & Marion Harding. Jessie was born and grew up in Lansing, Michigan, where she attended Sexton High School. She was an only child and the first in her family to attend college, earning her degree in journalism from Michigan State University. She also studied piano for twelve years and seriously considered a future in music performance. Instead, in 1964 she became the first African-American, and the first woman, hired as a full-time news reporter at the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press. She then achieved the same firsts as a news reporter and on-air broadcaster at WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids. Independent to the core, Jessie met her eventual husband by challenging the young lawyer at a press conference where she was a reporter. She and Frank were active in Michigan's civil-rights community, including the Urban League and fair housing campaigns, and were among the first interracial couples to marry after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on interracial marriage in the late 1960s. Jessie's commitment to genuine inclusion was evident throughout her life. When she and Frank moved to Minnesota in 1975, Jessie switched to working in public health communications for public and non-profit organizations, where she strove to improve access to critical health care and screening for traditionally underserved communities. Among the programs for which she worked were the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, the National Marrow Donor Program, and the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network. Jessie was passionate about community and the value of all voices-as well as the civic responsibility to participate. In addition to her paid work, she served on the Boards of Directors of Courage Center and the YWCA of Minneapolis, and enjoyed serving as an election judge in recent years. She was also an active member of the African- American Breast Cancer Alliance. Jessie brought an incredible vitality and aesthetic sensibility to life. She was a connoisseur of language and literature, frequently honing her children's attempts at erudition by providing the correct word or pronunciation. She devoured books and magazines on an enormous variety of topics, and often fell asleep still wearing her glasses and clutching the latest copy of the New Yorker. She had a deep appreciation for the arts, nourishing her children's imaginations with trips to sketch at the museum or concerts in jazz clubs where they were ten years underage. She relished a cutting-edge dance performance as much as a baroque concerto. And long before the current foodie movement, Jessie was bringing home unusual vegetables and condiments, and insisting that her children could and would learn how to comport themselves at adult restaurants serving adult palates. But while relishing the full vibrancy of life, she never forgot the work of others who came before her, which helped give her a chance to fully express her own gifts and tastes. And she was always looking for the other side of the story, the voice we hadn't heard yet. Jessie loved travel and had a genuine interest in other cultures, which showed in her growing global network of friends from trips abroad, and in encouraging her kids to study non-Western languages and spend time in developing countries. But her home for twenty years and dear to her heart was Christmas Lake, where she loved to cross-country ski, keep an eye out for fox and eagles, or simply watch and listen to the water. Jessie also loved the beauty of northern Minnesota in deep winter, often gamely making the trip to the North Shore exactly when others were heading south. Jessie preferred one well-crafted item, long saved for, to something she could have today that would break tomorrow. She loved an incisive joke, a well-crafted sentence, a perfectly steamed mussel... and a fast, sporty, manual transmission foreign car. She was a lifelong friend of animals, once determining that her daughter's flu could only be cured by means of a puppy, and she turned more than one stray animal into family. Jessie was an inspiring hostess, whether for elegant socialites or rebelling tweens, in formal gatherings and on spontaneous occasions. She was interested in everyone she met, and always made people comfortable and brought laughter to each conversation. She taught her children to always know their own worth, and thereby to discern and maintain quality relationships with people from all stations in life. And despite claiming not to be old enough to be a grandmother, she rejoiced in the arrival of her grandson Eli and helped him enter the world on a winter night. During her last six months of battling cancer, Eli was the light of her life.
Memorial Service 10:00 am Saturday, June 29 at Lakewood Cemetery Chapel, 3600 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis. Interment to follow at Lakewood Cemetery. Visitation 4:00- 7:00 pm Friday, June 28 at Washburn- McReavy Edina Chapel, West 50th St. and Vernon Ave at Hwy 100, Edina. Memorial contributions in Jessie's name are appreciated to African- American Breast Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Adoption Resource Network and any of the NGO's affiliated with Half the Sky Movement. www.Washburn-McReavy.com
Edina Chapel 952-920-3996
This obituary was originally published in the Star Tribune.