Jean (Russell) Hill Duncan, 93, of Williamstown, MA, died Sunday December 16th, in her home at the Sweetwood Retirement Community.
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She was born in Holyoke MA on January 2, 1925 to Robert Henry and Florence (Lea) Russell. Jean came from a lively family of four children. Her fondest memories of her youth include the weekend hikes she took with her dad, the mischief she got into with her brothers and the summers at Chimney Corners Camp in Becket.
Jean graduated from the Northfield School for Girls and attended Stephens College and Mt. Holyoke College. Jean enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps before informing her parents. Her time in the service made a huge impression on her and she frequently spoke of lessons learned about people and herself during that time.
After the war, Jean married Gordon Wyckoff Hill. They moved to the midwest while Gordon finished college. They started their family and built a home in Evanston, before moving back to Northampton Mass to manage her family’s hardware business (J.Russell and Co.) after the premature death of her father. Jean and Gordon were active in the Florence Congregational church, leading a junior high school youth group there.
The family made many memories at family camps and in Cummington Mass, where they purchased a weekend property with some land and the sugaring off cabin of William Cullen Bryant. Unheated, with few amenities, nature was largely present and caused the family to become inventive. “Sno-Co” was made from melted snow mixed with chocolate powder in a pinch. Jean was widowed in 1968. She worked at the Smith College Museum of Art and spent many pleasant hours in the print room working under Collis Baxter.
In 1976 she married Earl Duncan of Holyoke and they spent 15 happy years traveling to far flung locations, involved with their grandchildren and hobbies. By the time she moved to Sweetwood, Jean had lived in Northampton for 60 years. She was a small town girl with experiences in the wider world.
Jean was an avid reader and deep thinker. She read widely on subjects from psychology and biography to fiction and poetry. She liked nothing more than having a one on one conversation about something she read with her neighbors, family or friends. She was a saver and a keeper. Her home was full of small notes with collected quotes (referred to as “envelope wisdom”, as they were often scribbled onto the backs of envelopes). Sundays were for church, reading the New York Times, listening to music, and Sunday dinner with the family.
As a mom, Jean instilled in her daughters the importance of good manners, handwritten thank you notes, and everyday kindness toward others. She will be remembered for her ready smile, her wry humor, the stories of her youth, and the compliments she made to those around her.
Jean leaves three daughters: Deborah Lea Serrano of Redmond WA., Leslie Hill Paisley, of Williamstown Ma., and Ellen Russell Hill, of Sandisfield, Ma. She also leaves six grandchildren: Gordon Hansen, Rose Paisley, Chloe Paisley, Rufus Paisley, Kyla McHale, Sea McHale and one brother Robert Russell of South Hadley as well as a niece and 5 nephews. In addition she leaves three step children, Susan Hostage, Peter Bonneau, and John Duncan. Watching them grow and change gave Earl and Jean great joy. She was pre-deceased by her brother Henry Russell and sister Dorothy Denton.
Her family would like to thank the Sweetwood staff, Hospice of Western Massachusetts, Home Instead and the remarkable caregivers that made it possible for Jean to remain at home and in comfort, with loving support during her final months.
FUNERAL NOTICE: A memorial service for Jean R. Duncan will be held on April 11th at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown. A private burial will be in the Forestdale Cemetery in Holyoke. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Milne Public Library, Forbes Library, the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army who were always at the train station during the war, with hot coffee and doughnuts for active military. To add the the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com