Jean McMichael, 91, passed away on January 6 at the Morristown Medical Center Hospice after a period of declining health. She was surrounded by her family, both in-person and virtually, at the time of her death, and reunites with her beloved husband James who predeceased her in 2013.
She was born on August 28, 1929 in Paterson, N.J., the eldest child of Jean and John Campbell. She was first generation American-born, her mother having immigrated from Ireland and her father from Scotland. As a toddler, she travelled with her mother to Ireland to visit her grandparents on their farm, Caherlohan, in Tulla, County Clare. When they returned home to Paterson several months later, Jean amazed and delighted all the Irish friends and relations by speaking in a perfect west of Ireland brogue.
Jean and her only sibling Margaret grew up in Paterson, first on Walnut Street and then on Redwood Avenue. She was a graduate of St. Mary’s Grammar and High School, class of 1946. She continued her education at Sherwood Business School and was employed at Household Finance Corp., also in Paterson, in their accounting department from 1948 to 1952. In 1952 as a young bride, she and her husband James took up residence in a brand new house at 21 Oak Street in Riverdale. A year later, they welcomed their first child, with five more added to the family over the next ten years.
Jean was the heart of the family, tenderly caring for and completely devoted to each of her children. Her life closely mirrored her children, and she watched over them with loving attention. Over the years, Jean and Jim expanded their Oak Street residence to accommodate their growing family, adding on a dining room, bedrooms, a family room, and most welcome of all, a second bathroom. Jean and Jim’s home was filled with her children and their friends, their front yard usually littered with bikes of neighborhood kids, all whom Jean welcome with a warm word and many a snack. The back yard was usually crowded with kids playing in the huge sandbox Jim had built, or swinging on the swing set, or in summer, playing in the above-the-ground pool. For the McMichael children, it was a childhood made in heaven.
When the youngest McMichael went off to fourth grade, Jean reentered the workforce first as a secretary at Carelli Glynn and Ward Advertising Agency in Riverdale, then as executive secretary at GAF Corporation in Wayne where she worked until her retirement in 1994.
Jean and Jim were long-standing members of St. Mary’s RC Church in Pompton Lakes, and sent all of their children to St. Mary’s Grammar School and DePaul Diocesan High School in Wayne. Jean was a frequent volunteer at St. Mary’s and DePaul.
In their retirement, Jean and Jim were frequent travelers visiting their children in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and England. They also travelled with their children to Ireland, staying with cousins at Caherlohan, the family farm Jean had visited with her mother as a toddler. They also enjoyed many summer vacations to the Jersey Shore with their children and grandchildren.
Jean was a member of the Riverdale Seniors Club, serving as secretary for many years. She was the last surviving member of “Club”, a tightly-knit group of friends who met monthly in each others’ homes for over 40 years, sharing the ups and downs of family life, animated conversation and many laughs.
After her husband’s death, Jean stayed on at 21 Oak Street, lovingly assisted by Mrs. Joanne Gogots. She later moved to Victoria Mews Assisted Living in Boonton where she was a member of the handbell choir and dominoe club.
Jean was a mother first and foremost and her pride and joy and happiness resided with her family. She was blessed to see all of her children and all of her grandchildren grow up, and her great-grandchildren were frequent visitors to her apartment at Victoria Mews. By example, she instilled in her children a strong appreciation of the power of prayer and extending charity.
She is survived by children Elaine Stallard (Eric) of Durham, Kathleen Callan (Robert) of Bonita Springs, FL, James J. McMichael (Diane) of Pompton Plains, Patricia Remmert (Timothy) of Green Pond, NJ, Sheila Morris (Michael) of New Kent, VA, and Sharon Wendler (Bradley) of Mountain Lakes; 16 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; her sister Margaret Clum of Warren, NJ, a nephew and three nieces, and cousins both in this country and in Ireland.
A private internment will be held at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Totowa, NJ on Monday, January 11, with Mass of the Resurrection at St. Mary’s RC Church in Pompton Lakes planned for August 21, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, donations honoring Jean’s memory can be made to The Medical Needs Foundation PO Box 303 Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046 or online at themedicalneedsfoundation.org a charity her daughter Sharon has been a volunteer with for many years.