Jean Mathers "Gigi" Saillant
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Jean "Gigi" Mathers Saillant

With Jean's passing, the world loses the best Gigi ever.

Newly of Brookline, MA, and lived in Dearborn, MI for the last 50 years, passed away at home on February 13th of pancreatic cancer at 77, much too young and long before she was ready to be done with her adventures. Gigi loved fun. She ate cake on the beach at sunrise and drank a beer at sunset. She was drawn to natural beauty but loved the ocean the most. She took advantage of every opportunity to swim in the waves during a storm, or snorkel along the reefs of Grand Cayman. She hiked the Appalachian Trail or explored the National Parks every summer with friends. She was a meticulous quilter and skilled creator who could make works of art for any event, seemingly out of thin air. She played fast and loose with rules and loved playing games, though the two rarely mixed. She was an avid reader who loved word games and number patterns. Above all, she loved her family and reveled in their laughter and happiness.

Her love came in all shapes and sizes, from queen-sized quilts, to birthday banners, to tiny knit Christmas sweater ornaments that she perfected with an extraordinary and humble competence. If we loved something, she did too. Whether it was skateboarding, ice hockey, sailing, a young adult novel, or even a crazy project that may have included explosives, she was all in. She weaved friends and family into her world, collecting people everywhere she went. She had a natural gift for hospitality and graciously welcomed friends and strangers into her homes. She had many adventures planned with them because we all thought she would live forever.

But she wasn't just a good time gal. She worked hard at everything she did, including teaching biology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn for over 40 years, six of them as the department chairwoman. She loved her job and adored her students. She was a natural scientist who was committed to the truth and took pride in educating thousands of students, taking special care to support those in her classes whom she felt faced the biggest challenges.

Jean was born in Georgia and later moved to Pennsylvania, graduating from high school in Doylestown. She received her undergraduate degree from Wilson College and her Master of Arts in Biology from Indiana University, which sparked a lifelong crazy-lady allegiance to IU basketball. She settled in Dearborn in 1970, where she started teaching at Henry Ford Community College and UM-D. She was on the board of the Young Actors Guild in Ann Arbor for twenty years, serving as treasurer and running the light board.

She is survived by her loving family, including her three daughters, Martha Brown and her husband Devin of Belmont; Meredith Saillant and her husband Graeme Grant of Brookline; Megan Saillant and her husband Chris Jones of Gainesville, FL; her grandchildren Chloe, Duncan, Lydia, Harriet, Henry, Malcolm, Agatha, Delilah, and Daphne and their grandfather Roger B. Saillant of Saratoga Springs, NY; her sister Nancy and brother-in-law Jon Breul; her nieces Hannah and Sarah Breul, and her great-niece Charlie Roberge. She was predeceased by her parents W. Paul and Mary R. Mathers, her nephew Nathaniel Breul and her dearest friend Gail Barcelo.

A celebration of Jean's life will be held at a later date when people can gather safely to share good memories, laughs, and hugs. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to an endowed scholarship in her name at UM-D. Donations can be made by visiting giving.umich.edu/give/308066 and noting "Jean Saillant" in the comments section.




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Published in The Detroit News & Detroit Free Press from Feb. 17 to Feb. 21, 2021.
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Memories & Condolences
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3 entries
March 7, 2021
I first met Jean after becoming friends with Megan in high school and will always remember her wonderful sense of humor and generous spirit. My deepest condolences to Megan, Meredith, Martha and rest of the family.
Garrett Harabedian
February 23, 2021
My deepest condolences to the Saillant family.
Mary Welch
Friend
February 22, 2021
Jean Saillant has been a dear friend for over 50 years. We met in California in the late 60’s and have shared vacations, Thanksgivings, many hours of card playing, laughs, and most recently travel. Our families have remained close and I consider Jean’s family part of my own. Jean and Gail were very close friends with common interests and shared many things together. I will miss Jean almost as much as I miss Gail. My deepest sympathy to Martha, Meredith, Megan, Roger, Nancy and all of Jean’s loved ones. She was a wonderful friend and I will deeply miss her.
Brian T Barcelo
Friend
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