Jeanne Darlington

Obituary of Jeanne A. Darlington

Jeanne Darlington passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 27, 2023. She was born on April 19, 1924 in Chicago and spent her childhood there. After her marriage to Robert Darlington, they lived in several states (Washington, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts). Bob was from a Quaker family and Jeanne wasn’t sure if she was accepted by the family, especially when Bob’s grandmother referred to her as “that woman.” However, she became very close to the extended family, and was always close to her own sister, Mary Lou and her family. She lived a full life for 99 years and left us with so many memories, experiences and stories. In her academic and professional life she was a chemist. She graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois with a degree in chemistry but she left the lab to raise her family and be a full-time mom to Barbara, Nancy and Susan. Memories of those years with our mom include her skill as a seamstress and she sewed most of our clothes. Before the beginning of each school year it was great fun to go to the fabric store and pick out patterns and material. She could sew tailored coats and upholster furniture. Barb and Nan remember being in a fashion show at the state university wearing dresses she made. In high school Barb had a favorite tie-dyed turquoise tent dress. Turquoise was always mom’s favorite color. She was also a knitter and once made Barb a mohair sweater that was too expensive to buy at the store. There must have been times when money was tight, but as kids, we never noticed. Mom also set aside her strong dislike of animals and put up with a menagerie of pets over the years that included Wags, the beagle, various birds, turtles, hamsters and mice. The mouse joined the family when Barb brought it home from a church fair in a brown paper lunch bag. Whenever one of the rodents escaped from its cage mom would hide until it was found. As a mom she was ever patient and attentive to all of our activities. She drove us to Camp Fire Girls meetings, swim team practices, drama club events, hosted many birthday parties and sleep-overs, attended school events and was a great advocate for us. When Sue was accepted to study abroad for a year in high school mom set aside her fears and sent her off to Thailand, after expecting that she would go to a much safer European country. Too many times to count she told us “You are smarter than most and can do anything you want.” Then she would laugh and say we inherited our brains from her. Life wasn’t always easy, but she perservered and found a way to keep everyone going. Our dad struggled with alcohol as a way to cope with his own life’s traumas. Mom eventually joined Al Anon and rediscovered her strength and independence. She had some wild and fun adventures with her new found Al Anon friends when they road-tripped to conventions. Her strength and independence also took her back to school in her 40s when she enrolled in a Master’s program in chemistry at Wellesley College. She had seen a flyer advertising a program for women chemistry majors who had been out of the field for at least twenty years. She had been away from the field longer than that and was the oldest applicant. She was accepted and she began another wonderful new chapter of life. At Wellesley she became part of a community of educated, intelligent, strong women. She fit right in, made lifelong friends, and after earning her degree she stayed on as a chemistry lab instructor (where she was known for making her coffee over a bunsen burner) for 25 years until she retired. While studying for Wellesley, mom expanded her knowledge and interest in health through exercise, nutrition and vitamins. Many times our dinner table conversations evolved into a mini-lecture on molecules and chemical reactions. These lectures usually ended with someone interjecting “too much information!” She went to exercise classes, always opted to walk up stairs rather than take the elevator, and practiced yoga for years. She bragged that she was the oldest person in the class and the only one who could stand on her head. At 98 she finally surrendered to using a walker after experiencing a stroke. But she still walked on her own and maintained a remarkably independent life. She had also been an active member of the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton, a Unitarian/Universalist congregation. We were not raised in a religious family and, apparently, neither was mom. She told us a story that when she asked her mother why they didn’t go to church, her mother would reply, “Because in church you have to be good on Sunday. In our family we have to be good every day.” She enjoyed the First Parish community and the thought-provoking and reflective aspects of Unitarianism. She participated in many activities and programs and served more than one term as church president. Mom was the family historian and keeper of stories. Over the years the stories became intertwined and we had many laughs at her expense as we retold jumbled stories of our grandmother moving from Georgia to Chicago by riding on top of a train with a piano; her uncle who was a circus performer high diving into a small tub of water; and the uncle who immigrated to America by swimming over from Canada. Mom insisted that her southern relatives layered up in longjohns for the winter and took off one layer at a time as they got dirty. The truth of our history may never recover but we sure had fun listening to her tell stories. After living in Acton, MA for over 40 years Jeanne and Bob sold their house and moved to Loomis Village in S. Hadley. Adjusting to a new life and living situation was a big change, but mom found many wonderful friends and kept active in the community after Bob passed away in 2014. She always enjoyed hearing about and visiting with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even as her memory weakened she would always ask, “Is everyone OK?” In August 2022 she experienced a stroke and it became apparent that a move to the Loomis Assisted Living program would give her the best opportunity to stay as independent as possible. She was grateful for the extra help, but her stubborn independent streak was still strong and she often insisted that she could get along just fine on her own. Which she did right to the end. Jeanne was predeceased by her parents, George and Dorothy (Tasker) Olson, her husband, Robert Darlington and her sister, Mary Lou Dredge. She is survived by her daughters, Barbara Darlington Ito, Nancy Darlington and Susan Darlington; her grandchildren– Jessica and Nyssa Belvill, and Jamie Ito, her step-grandchildren Drew and Travis Hagen, and her great grandchildren – Chase and Miranda Edgecomb, Gavin Hooper and Brystol Belvill and many other dear relatives and friends too numerous to name here. She loved you all. A memorial service will be planned for October 2023. In lieu of flowers donations can be given to the Wellesley College Chemistry Department to support women in the sciences and in gratitude for all that the college gave to our mom. Personal condolences can be sent to the family at 20 Old Bay Road, Belchertown, MA 01007.
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