Obituary of Jeanette Simpson
Beloved French Teacher Dies at 98
Jeanette Louise Simpson, née Schweckler, passed away quietly at home on July 15, 2017 after a stroke. She was 98.
Known as “Madame Simpson” to all who attended the Locust Valley schools from the early 50’s through the 70’s, Jeanette maintained her reputation as an innovator in foreign language education throughout her long life. Teaching was her passion. In 1954 she created, developed and implemented a French language program which began in first grade. Most teachers opposed her, fearing that their students would become confused and not learn to read. However, the late Leon Westfall, school principal, supported her, as did the children, who fell in love with her class.
Throughout her retirement, former students corresponded with and visited Madame Simpson. As recently as mid-June, former student Steve Young visited her while attending his 50th Reunion at LVHS. “She was very sharp … and we were laughing and talking away like two teenagers,” he said, recounting their times in French class.
John Williams, former student and Harvard graduate who became a mining lawyer with special expertise in the Congo, attributes his career to her teaching. In 2003 he travelled with his wife from Washington DC to Locust Valley to present her with a shawl embroidered with the inscription:
A Madame Simpson, de son élève profondément reconnaissant, Buz Williams, ’03
Madame Simpson collected numerous testimonials. One from student Jamie Stanco reads:
Madame Simpson had a profound impact on my life. I missed most of 6th grade due to an auto accident and wound up in a body cast. Madame Simpson came to our house weekly and believe it or not, the language and idioms I learned from her have served me well in travels in both France and French-speaking countries. Keep rolling your R’s! She is a remarkable person and I’m sure every one of us whom she taught would agree.
Jeanette Louise Schweckler was born on January 11, 1919 in New York City. A few months later, she and her parents, Jean and Ida Schweckler, went back to France to her mother’s rural home town of Mandeure, spending her first 7 years there. In the late 20’s, they returned to the U.S., settling in Locust Valley. Jeanette attended Glen Cove High School and Cornell University where she met her future husband, the late Charles Simpson. They married upon her graduation in 1940. While at Cornell, Jeanette spent her junior year abroad at the Sorbonne and received a Diplôme Universitaire with a thesis on Balzac. She subsequently attended Columbia University Teacher’s College, and in 1945 gave birth to her her first daughter, Paulette. The family lived in Rockland County until 1952, when they returned to Locust Valley to build a home on Linden Farms Road. Their second daughter, Hester, was born in 1949 and both children grew up in the Locust Valley home that was to become Jeanette’s sanctuary, which she cherished for the rest of her life.
Jeanette had a profound influence on her daughters. Lively, affectionate, and opinionated, she was a force to be reckoned with. An avid reader, she instilled in her daughters a love of learning and a life of purpose. Without saying so, she expected excellence, and they delivered. Paulette received a PhD in ESL and was a Professor in that specialty at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Hester received an MFA and was on the faculty of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among others, and is a painter in collections represented by Ricco/Maresca Gallery in Manhattan.
To satisfy her endless curiosity, Jeanette loved to travel. In 1957 she flew with her family to Cuba, one year before Castro’s revolution. In May of 1968, she was in Paris on sabbatical and witnessed the French Student Revolt, following participants to the Opéra for their historic gathering.
Jeanette is survived by her two daughters, Paulette Henderson and Hester Simpson Scofield, both of Manhattan, and two grandchildren, Michael Courtney Henderson and Eliza Louise Scofield.
Heartfelt thanks go to her devoted caregivers of the last two years: Kayoko Sorenson, Danuta Mizrachi, Inna Mozil, and Jolanta Samocka.
A Memorial Gathering will be held for her on Saturday July 29th from 1-3pm at Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home: 26 Franklin Ave. Glen Cove. Memorial Service to follow at 3pm at Dodge-Thomas. Interment will be private.
Donations may be made to the American Red Cross, where Jeanette volunteered, and to Doubleday-Babcock, where she practiced T’ai Chi for her last two decades, making lifelong friends. www.DodgeThomas.com