NEW SALEM - Jean Stabell died peacefully at her New Salem home on Saturday, April 19, following a protracted battle with leukemia. Surrounding her at the end were dear friends and her partner of 38 years, Judy McLamb, who cared for her lovingly throughout her illness.
Jean was born May 4, 1937 in Norwalk Conn. She graduated from Norwalk High School in 1955, earned a B.A. from New York University and an M.A. at the University of Chicago. Her lifelong dedication to issues of civil rights and to women's health are evident throughout her life, as a volunteer and as a professional.
During the 1960s, she served as a Vista Volunteer with the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho. Subsequently, she served for several years as assistant director and then as acting director of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut before accepting an appointment as Business Manager at the non-profit Gesell Institute for Child Development in New Haven, Conn.
Jean and her partner, Judy McLamb, were originally lured to the Five College area in search of land. In 1978, they purchased a 185-acre property located at 46 Cooleyville Road in New Salem, where for many years they operated a Christmas tree farm that became a fond holiday destination for many people of the area. Visitors to the farm in every season were greeted with the cheerful sight of Jean happily astride her tractor, maintaining the land and trees she loved.
In the fall of 1987, she joined the staff of the Five College consortium in Amherst as Treasurer and Business Manager, a post she held until her retirement in June 1998. In addition to managing a budget of over $5 million, her duties included working with some 40 academic and professional staff committees, including the Affirmative Action Officers, Comptrollers, Food Service Directors, Investment Officers, Personnel Officers, Physical Plant Directors, Security Directors, Telecommunications Committee, Transportation Committee and the chief financial officers of the five schools - Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. As treasurer, Jean also earned a reputation as a financial officer with the capacity to bridge the divide between numbers and letters, equally adept at explaining budgets to the uninitiated as well as the financial professionals.
In 2001, she came out of retirement to serve for two years in a part-time capacity as Acting Five College Treasurer to fill an unanticipated vacancy on staff.
In retirement, Jean focused her varied talents on contributing to the New Salem community, devoting many years to revitalizing the historic 1794 Meeting House in New Salem. She served on the board of directors for six years in various capacities, including president, working to expand programming and fund-raising for the building as both an historic landmark and a community focal point.
Retirement also freed Jean to pursue a passion for photography and poetry. Melding her love of nature with her deep aesthetic sensibilities, she produced an extraordinary body of work that earned her many awards as well as a wide following. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Fitchburg Museum, at the Gardner Area League of Artists (GALA), as well as community exhibits in Monson and Petersham. Recently, her work was featured in a solo exhibit at the Wendell Library. "After Image," a book representing 30 years of her photographic work and writing appeared in 2012. A locally popular calendar she produced each Christmas for the past several years featured some of these photographs.
During the final difficult stages of her illness, her work and her friends sustained her. As a final project, earlier this year she undertook to assemble a collection of her own favorite photographs, paired with quotations from favorite poets and other people. Entitled "All I Was Doing Was Breathing," the book is currently available at several local bookstores.
Jean is survived by her partner, Judy McLamb, whom she married in a private ceremony on Aug. 9, 2013; her sister, Kathryn, and brother-in-law, Leon Breault; nieces, Elizabeth Brown, Laura Gibb, Christopher Breault, Vanessa Mulvey, and several grandnieces: Devon, Jennifer, Maggie, Julianne, Corinne.
A memorial service for Jean Stabell is being planned for Sunday, May 4, at the 1794 Meeting House, 26 South Main St. in New Salem, MA, from 2 to 4 p.m.
The family suggests that contributions in her memory be made to the Gardner VNA-Hospice, 34 Pearly Lane, Gardner, MA 01440 or to Planned Parenthood, Suite 201, 3550 Main St., Springfield, MA 01107.
Witty's Funeral Home, 158 South Main St., Orange, is directing arrangements. You may offer your sympathy or find directions at: www.wittyfuneralhome.com.
Witty's Funeral Home
158 South Main Street
Orange, MA 01364
Published in The Recorder on Apr. 23, 2014