Memorial contributions in Jean's memory to the St. Jude's Children's Hospital would be much appreciated by visiting St. Jude's Children's Hospital
Jean Garnet Holly was born on August 29, 1932 to William Garnet (Bucky) Holly, a chemical engineer and graduate of Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and Grayce Arnold Holly, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, who was a nursery school teacher at the Riverdale Orphanage prior to her marriage.
Jean and her parents lived in their two-family home in Richmond Hill Queens, along with Ellen Virginia, her older sister, and her paternal grandmother, Anna McKinney Holly Carty. Jean attended P.S. 51 and P.S. 90 in Queens, and graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 1950, placing seventh in a class of 292 students. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Hunter College of the City University of New York in January 1954, and during her student years joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Rho Chapter.
After graduating in January, 1954, Jean accepted a position as a regular substitute at Newton High School in Elmhurst, Queens, teaching Foods and Nutrition and Driver’s Education, although the school had no cars to provide. Jean declined the High School’s offer of employment for the fall term, opting instead for a stint in the corporate world. She became employed as a business office representative for the New York Telephone Company from 1954-1958, leaving there for the birth of her first child.
In May of 1954, Jean met her future husband, Edward Mouzon Gant, a native of Chicago, Illinois. He was serving the United States Army during the Korean War and was stationed at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. Ed’s older brother, Virgil (Buddy) Gant, a friend who had briefly dated Ellen, in referring to Jean, had told Ed, “I have just the girl for you.” So when Ed was stationed at Camp Kilmer he telephoned Jean. A blind date, to consist of a sight-seeing tour of New York was arranged. It included a visit to Lever House, the United Nations and the top of the Empire State Building, ending with dinner at Toffenetti’s. Ed and Jean’s mutual attraction was immediate, and they dated steadily thereafter for the next two years. They were married at the Church of the Resurrection in Richmond Hill on June 23, 1956.
Two children were born of their union; Christopher Edward on November 8, 1958 and Holly Elisabeth on May 28, 1961. Jean was a stay-at-home wife and mother until 1967 when Chris and Holly, aged 9 and 6 were both in school full time. From 1967-1969, Jean became one of the original Teacher Coordinators in the Women’s Talent Corps, located at Varick Street in New York City. This pioneering program later received a charter and became the College for Human Services. It trained disadvantaged and undereducated women to become paraprofessionals in the fields of education, health and social services. Jean left her position at the College when she and Ed bought a home and moved to White Plains, New York in Westchester County.
In 1970, Jean entered the White Plains school system in the Adult Basic Education Program of the White Plains Adult Education Center located at the Rochambeau School. She taught Reading, Math, vocational-Education Assessment and English as a Second Language.
Ed and Jean’s children were their joy and the center of their lives. Their world was shattered when Chris was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent surgery in August 1973. Following radiation and chemotherapy, and with no visible impairment, Chris returned to school. As he began to live an apparently normal life, his parents began to dare to hope for a successful outcome, but in the spring of 1976 the cancer recurred, this time inoperable. After a weeks-long hospital stay, comatose at the end, Chris died on May 22, 1976. One month later his family received posthumously the Woodlands High School diploma he had earned. Devastated by their loss, but grateful to still have each other and their precious surviving child Holly, Ed and Jean struggled to go on with their lives.
In 1979 Jean resigned from the White Plains Adult Education Center to become an Administrator with the City of White Plains Personnel Department. In December 1981 she received the Distinguished Service Award from the White Plains Human Rights Commission for her role in the implementation and administration of the Federal Court order which mandated desegregation of the White Plains Fire and Police Departments under
Federal Court Consent Judgments (Mount Vernon, New York and New Rochelle, New York also received such judgments). Jean retired from the Personnel Department in December 1991.
Sadly, Ed entered White Plains Hospital one month later for his final illness, suffering complications from his previous pancreatic cancer surgery in 1978. He fought a fourteen-year ferocious battle, during quite a bit of which he had enjoyed relatively good health. Jean and Ed’s long and loving marriage of 35 years ended with his death on February 7, 1992, three days short of his 61st birthday.
The last years of Jean’s life were spent enjoying her family and a circle of life-long friends, including the Ins & Outs, women who had known each other, some since childhood, others in college, and their husbands, who when marrying a member, joined the group and maintained friendship and fellowship. She spent three post-retirement years (2006-2009) working in an administrative position in the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program of the Village of Ossining, New York. Jean then made a life-changing move, followed by several years residing in the Charter House, a senior community in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her cousins Anne and Grant Shipp lived nearby and she enjoyed their proximity, their children, their many friends and their own frequent companionship. Upon returning to New York, she was able to spend more time with Ellen, Holly, Alexa and Ashley
Jean is survived by Holly, her beloved daughter, and Holly’s two children, granddaughters Alexa Holly and Ashley Elisabeth. She also leaves her sister Ellen, an actress and writer with whom she maintained a close and loving relationship throughout the years, including stays at their summer home in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York.