Jean (Bishop) Herron, 91, died in the early morning of the summer solstice, June 21, 2019. She was in the company of her three children at the RiverMead Lifecare Community, where she had lived since 2011.
Jean, daughter of Erle G. and Esther (Ware) Bishop, was born in Framingham, Mass., on Nov. 24, 1927. At 3 years old the family moved to Lititz, Pa., and then again at 4 to Peterborough, when the national economic collapse cost Erle his job. Jean spent the remainder of her school years in the family house on 14 Granite St., a house that remains standing today. She recalled an “icebox” chilled with large chunks of ice delivered from Batcheldor’s Pond on Powersbridge Road. Another potent memory was living through the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which also caused a catastrophic Peterborough fire.
After graduating from Central High School (Peterborough’s first high school), Jean continued as a music major at Oberlin (Ohio) College, but intentionally chose to study a broad range of subjects as well. During the summers she worked in a variety of jobs at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough. After she graduated from Oberlin in 1949 she moved to Carlsbad, N.M., (on a whim and the suggestion of a friend) to teach 5th grade to a Spanish-only speaking group of 30, ranging from 10 to 16 in age, a job which she was able to endure until Christmas vacation.
A year later, on Dec. 20, 1950, Jean married Daniel James of Dublin. A frigid day in Chicago, where they had planned to live, suggested a move instead to Colorado Springs, Colo., where Danny’s brother, Michael “Micky” James, had once attended art school. One year later the young family (now including son, Jonathan) moved to Boulder, Colo., where Danny attended college, and Jean delivered her second child, Mary, in January of 1954. Life changed suddenly on Dec. 17, 1956, when Danny died of a heart attack.
Jean continued to live in Boulder for the next two and a half years, making do as a single mother, until meeting and marrying John “Jack” Herron, and moving the family to Denver, where she and Jack lived until 1979. In 1960, Jean’s third child, Amy, was born during a big April snowstorm. In addition to providing a great home for her family, Jean involved herself in numerous civic and volunteer activities, including the League of Women Voters, a neighborhood action group in support of community desegregation, the high school PTA (serving as president), tutoring both children and adults, and Planned Parenthood. In addition, she assisted the director of the ACLU and worked with an agency helping seniors find employment.
In 1979, Jean and Jack, inspired by an idea of change, moved to rural northwest Colorado where they built their own passive solar home on remote Rattlesnake Mesa, and raised bees and sheep. In addition, Jean worked for eight years as an assistant librarian at the Meeker Library, and tended to her beloved wildflowers. Both often described this time as one of the best times of their lives.
In 1997, following the death of Jean’s father, Erle, and with the failing health of her mother, Jean made the hard decision to return to her childhood home of Peterborough. Husband Jack followed later, and both lived at Jean’s parents’ home on Lookout Hill. Mom described becoming reacquainted with her childhood town as a “pleasure.” During these years she enjoyed being part of a ladies ping-pong club (quite a good player!), learning and playing the recorder, regularly playing the piano, and singing in the Monadnock Chorus and the Unitarian Church choir. In addition she became involved as a hospice volunteer, as well as helping with the local food pantry. Jean also dedicated many of these years to taking care of Jack through his illness until his death on Dec. 3, 2006.
In January 2011, Jean moved to the RiverMead community, which was an abrupt life change even though she had wisely placed herself on the waiting list some years before. She seemed to enjoy her years in independent living, participating in numerous community activities, including her ping pong passion. Transitioning to higher levels of care was not easy, but a constant was the warm, personal care that Jean received from all levels of the RiverMead staff, from housekeeping through administration.
Jean is survived by son, Jonathan James, of La Veta, Colo.; daughters, Mary James of Asheville, N.C., and Amy Herron Bright of Harrisville; and grandsons, Taylor Viles and Jaimini Viles of Harrisville.
A remembrance service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough this Thursday, June 27, at 2 p.m. In addition there will be a simple gathering for residents and staff of RiverMead who wish to honor Jean at a time and date to be announced.
Memorial donations can be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Peterborough Food Pantry, 25 Elm St., Peterborough, or the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church, 25 Main St., Peterborough, NH 03458.