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The simple lowdown on Fairfield

Mama Jeanne

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On Saturday at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, I bid farewell to “Mama Jeanne,” who died April 2 at the age of 80.
Mama Jeanne was Jeanne Elsasser, one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. For those of you who are longtime readers of the Fairfield Citizen, perhaps you remember her. I certainly know that many in the real estate community recall the round-faced, tall woman who handled their listings, which appeared every Friday in the newspaper.
Since the early 1980s – in the office on South Benson or the temporary one at Heritage Square or the permanent one on Carter Henry — Jeanne handled the customer service for the classified and real estate ads. In those days, customers regularly stopped into the office to place their ads, unlike now where everything is done over the phone. She eventually became the manager of the real estate directory, working closely with the agents and with the newspaper’s production department. I remember vividly seeing her hunched over her desk placing copies of photos and text on the dummies or mechanicals, as they were called. But prior to getting even to that point, Jeanne met with the majority of the realtors, who would sit beside her desk, go over their ads for the coming week and then relax and catch up on family, gossip and town affairs.
And that was the best part about Jeanne – she always made you feel important because she was interested in your life.
My relationship with Jeanne was like that of mother and daughter. I think she was a little unsure of me when I was appointed the editor of the newspaper in 1986. But as the years went on, we became close and I often turned to her for help or advice. And we had a lot of fun – and laughs. Jeanne loved to laugh, and if you got her going, well, look out. She would go into uncontrollable laughter if something struck her particularly funny.
We also were lunch buddies, especially if we had a craving for something off the menu at Breakaway, where Martel is located now. I regularly ordered its grilled chicken sandwich with pesto mayonnaise and Jeanne always got the chicken wings. I usually did the pickup and delivery after Jeanne would place the order. I can hear her on the phone saying she wanted the chicken wings – “the part that flies.” I smile as I think of that memory. And here’s another interesting tidbit about Jeanne – she loved pretzels. But as I came to find out later, she rarely ate the pretzel and instead just sucked the salt off of them. Dozens of pretzels could be found in the waste basket at her desk.
Jeanne was a great cook – and hospitable. She and her husband Art often opened up their Fallow Field Road house in Greenfield Hill to the newspaper staff. Their beautiful home with the built-in swimming pool was the scene of many a party, and Jeanne made all of the food. Oh, and they also had a boat, which they used regularly, including watching the annual Fairfield fireworks display from Long Island Sound.
When the process of coordinating the real estate advertising section changed – Jeanne was going to have to actually go out and sell ads – she and Art decided it was time to retire. So they sold their Fairfield house and headed to Sanibel Island, where they lived for a number of years until returning to Connecticut and living with their daughter and son-in-law in a specially built apartment for them.
That hospitality that was at Jeanne’s core continued when they moved to the island. One time when my friend Cathy and I vacationed in Naples, Fla., we decided to take a side trip to see Jeanne and Art. We expected to spend a few hours with them, but it ended being an overnight stay. Jeanne made us dinner, then provided us with our own accommodations in a wing of their house – separate bedrooms and bath. What a treat. I will never forget it.
The memorial service for Jeanne on Saturday was a simple tribute to a woman who lived a simple life – family, friends, fun. And lots of love.

Categories: General

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One Response

  1. Eddie says:

    Thank you “Sis”
    Mama is smiling and laughing uncontrolably right now over parts of your tribute to her..
    Love you Pat.. Thank you for such a warm and loving letter of her..
    Eddie..