Jean Washburn Hernandez died peacefully on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at her home in Essex Meadows in Essex, Connecticut. She was 93 years old.
Jean was born on September 20, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, to Lawrence and Margaret Washburn and was the oldest of three sisters. Raised in Montreal, Canada and Scarsdale, New York, she was the 4th generation of women in her family to graduate from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, NY. After a childhood bout of polio, she attended Mt. Holyoke College where she contracted tuberculosis. After recuperating in upstate NY and Arizona, she resumed her studies at the University of Arizona.
At the start of WWII Jean enlisted in the American Red Cross and served at an Army Air Force Base in Arizona, at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, Otis Field on Cape Cod, and at Washington DC’s St. Elizabeth Hospital. In all locations she tended the returning wounded, particularly those impacted by psychological trauma.
Before the war she met her future husband, Silvio E. Hernandez in Havana, Cuba while staying with family friends. She married him in 1946, when he returned from wartime service with the U.S. Army in Europe. They first resided in New York but shortly after the births of their two children were sent by Westinghouse Electric to Madrid, Spain where they remained for 8 years. From there they moved to Havana, her husband’s birthplace, a year before the Cuban Revolution. After being witness to the tumultuous changes brought on by Castro’s policies, they fled in 1960, settling in Essex CT so as to be near Jean’s parents who had retired there. She remained a resident of Essex for 54 years as an active and contributing member of the community.
Jean was a homemaker and dedicated volunteer. She was on the Board of the Florence Griswold Museum, in Old Lyme, CT, where as a volunteer, she initiated and ran a successful travel program for the members of the Museum. She was President of the Essex Garden Club, on the Board of the Essex Library Association, and active with St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, the Child and Family Agency of SE CT, and many other charitable and community organizations. Jean and her husband loved to travel and together they enjoyed taking extended trips throughout the world.
Jean was preceded in death by her loving husband of 55 years and more recently by her gentle companion, George (Bud) Lethbridge. She is survived by her daughter Margaret (Maggie) Hernandez of Key Biscayne, FL, son Robert (Laurie) Hernandez of Essex, CT and their sons Alexander and Christopher.
A memorial service will be held May 2, 2014 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, CT at 10 a.m.
Memorial donations can be made to the Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT, 06371