In Her Words
Candid profiles of strength told by the women of Northbridge
Throughout the month of March we have collaborated to celebrate Women’s History Month and the rich history of the amazing women living in our communities. Their candid stories are brimming over with love, happiness, passion, family values and the markings of individuals who have truly lived well and loved life.
Jean's Story (Resident of Bayberry at Emerald Court) written by her daughters, Pamela and Gillian.
On February 1930, in Northern London, Lillian and Harry Cross birthed their first and only child who they named Jean. One thing about Jean that drew the attention of anyone around her was her gorgeous red hair. Early on in her life she was given the nickname “Titian” after the famous painter who was known for his jaw dropping artwork of woman with long, beautiful, red hair.
In 1940, when Jean was just 10 years old, World War II began and Germany began to bomb England. At this time the residents of England who lived in the area of the bombings decided that in order to protect the children they would be sent to other safer countries during this time. Most children were sailed out to other countries such as Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Out of the millions of children forced to leave London all by themselves, only 160 of those children came to America through an organization called the “Kodakids.” Jean was fortunate enough to be one of the few children to come to America.
On her journey here, at then 11 years old, the two protector boats that accompanied both sides of the passenger boat Jean was on were bombed along their travels and didn’t make it to America. When the children arrived overseas they landed on Ellis Island in New York where they were then processed into the states. From there, the children were brought to Rochester, New York where they were separated into different foster homes.
This was a difficult period of time in Jean’s life, but without these experiences Jean wouldn’t have become the Jean we all knew and loved. Throughout her struggles Jean managed to turn her weaknesses into strengths. She was bounced around from foster home to foster home being treated quite poorly in most of her experiences. She ended up forming a very tight mother/daughter-like relationship with a social worker she met along the way who formed Jean’s future of social work and helping others in need. Her social worker friend placed Jean with Frances and Charles Starr in 1944. The Starr’s very quickly formed a loving bond with, at this time, 13 year old Jean.
Shortly after, in 1945, the war was over and it was safe for the children to go back to England with their families. Jean was about 14 years old when she went back to Lillian and Harry Cross just to find out her parents were separated and the image she had imagined of coming home to a complete family was destroyed. Three years later Jean decided there was nothing left for her in England so she saved up every penny she had and decided to go back to her foster parents in New York.
Jean began to sprout from there. She started working as a travelers aid for a local train station helping to connect young children in need of homes and support. After returning to Rochester she got back in contact with the man she had fell in love with before she had returned to London years ago, Arthur, and they got married in 1953. Jean and Arthur had three children, Pamela, Gillian and Peter. As determined of a woman as she was she managed to balance it all out working full time and raising children. In this time era, for a woman to work instead of being home with her children was extremely frowned upon but that never affected her hard working demeanor.
Jean was an extravagant woman with many accomplishments in her life. Along with working full time, later on in life she started a nonprofit volunteer suicide hotline called “Dial Help.” Jean was a woman who experienced much loss and tragedy in her life but always managed to turn her disadvantages into advantages and wanted to do everything in her power to give everyone else in the world the same life changing opportunities that were given to her.