DURRELL Jacquelyn Carmen Durrell, age 81, died Monday, February 2, 2009 peacefully after a long illness at her home in Fairfield, with family members at her side. Called Jacky by family and friends, she had many roles in the community but is best known as Fairfield First Selectman from 1983-93. Jacky was born in Sioux City, IA, the daughter of Loris and Florence Dow. She spent most of her childhood in Minneapolis, MN, graduating from that city's Central High School in 1945 and working at a local TV station. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she met her future husband, the late Richard "Dick" Durrell, on a blind date. Jacky and Dick married in 1949, and lived in Minneapolis, Dallas, Texas and Westport, before moving to their beloved hometown of Fairfield in 1959. Dick pursued a career at Time Inc. while Jacky focused on raising their children and community involvement. Jacky's initial volunteer activities included being a Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher, Great Books instructor in the local schools, and PTA president. She was elected to the Fairfield Board of Education in 1973, becoming the town's first female school board chairwoman. She served as a State Representative from 1977-79, was on the town Recreation Commission, and was the first woman elected to the Fairfield Board of Selectmen in 1981. Jacky then served five terms as First Selectman beginning in 1983, with her accomplishments including maintaining the town's financial excellence, spearheading the economic revival of Fairfield Center, and forming Sullivan-McKinney Elder Housing at Grasmere. She always reached out to those in need, such as by working to establish Fairfield's Operation Hope homeless shelter and to open the town's first group home for the mentally challenged. Jacky was president of the statewide Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. Her involvement in the community continued after her time in elected office. She was appointed to the state Ethics Commission, and served on the Fairfield Police Commission from 1998-2006, including as chairman. She served on numerous local non-profit boards, including those of the American Red Cross, Bridgeport Hospital, Channel 49 (local Public Television station), Fairfield University, Kennedy Center, Operation Hope, RYASAP, Sacred Heart University, United Way, Visiting Nurse Services, and Wakeman's Boys and Girls Club. In addition to her public service and community involvement, Jacky will be remembered for her sense of humor, ability to work with others, optimism, energy, common sense, and willingness to help the less fortunate. Her other interests included reading, following current affairs from the local to international level, painting, tap dancing and travel. Her family will remember her as a great Mom and Grandma who offered them love, guidance, support and encouragement. She will be missed by her many friends, acquaintances and co-workers through the years as well as by her family. The Durrell family would like to thank the VNS Hospice at Home staff and other caregivers for their loving assistance during both Jacky and Dick's illnesses. She was pre-deceased by her husband and by their son, Scott-Alexander Durrell of Minneapolis, and is survived by five children, seven grandchildren and four brothers: daughter Piper Durrell and her husband, Russ May, of Blacksburg, Va., and their children, Lillian May and Jackson May; daughter Robyn Geissler and her husband, Tom, of Mill Valley, Calif., and their children, Jillian Geissler, Christopher Geissler and Annie Geissler; daughter Kerry Durrell and her companion, Peter Hancock, of San Diego; son Brad Durrell and his partner, Richard Barnes, of Morris; son Alex Durrell and his wife, Trudi, of Fairfield and their children, Ryan Durrell and Stacey Durrell; brother Loris Dow of Johnson City, Tenn.; brother Duane Dow of Clearwater, Fla.; Ronald Dow of Scroggins, Texas, and James Dow of Springfield, Mo.; as well as by sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and other relatives. A memorial service will take place at First Church Congregational, corner of Beach Road and Old Post Road, Fairfield on Monday, February 16, 2009 at 11 a.m. with the Rev. David Spollett officiating. Entombment will be private in Oak Lawn Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of the Spear-Miller Funeral Home, 39 South Benson Road, Fairfield . In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Kennedy Center, 2440 Reservoir Ave., Trumbull, CT 06611, or Jacky Durrell Service Award (college scholarships for Fairfield students), Fairfield Parks and Recreation Dept., 75 Mill Plain Road, Fairfield, CT 06824, Attn: Ginna Paules.
Published in Connecticut Post on Feb. 4, 2009.