Jean B. Chalmers
Hanover, N.H. — Jean Bunker Chalmers died Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, at 88 years old. Jean was born Oct. 20, 1927, in Madison, Wis., where her father, William E. Chalmers, was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, while also working as a union organizer for the UAW. Her mother was Ruth Vinton Chalmers, born in (then) Rangoon, Burma, to Baptist missionaries; she met Bill Chalmers while at Pembroke/Brown University. The family moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1936, and spent three years there while Jean's father served in the International Labor Organization's delegation to the League of Nations.
In 1939, they returned to Washington, D.C., where her father was in the Department of Labor. Jean attended Woodrow Wilson High School in D.C. and then earned her BFA at Rhode Island School of Design. She met and was married to Joseph Schwarz in graduate school at University of Illinois.
She suspended her education to raise children, moving to Ohio and then to Athens, Ga., in 1957. While in Georgia, Jean was active in the League of Women Voters the Congregation Children of Israel and the Human Relations and Welfare Board. From 1964 to 1965, she and her family lived in Florence, Italy.
After they returned to Georgia, she attended the University of Georgia Law School, earning her LLB in 1968, along with only one other woman in her class.. She then practiced law in Richmond, Va., at the law office of Corry & Corry. After a divorce, in 1972 Jean made her home in Rockland, a place she loved dearly, joining John Knight in his law practice and becoming his law partner in short order.
She was dedicated to community service. While in Rockland, Jean served on numerous boards and in various capacities with great energy and enthusiasm -- including as director for Habitat for Humanity, treasurer of her synagogue, Adas Yoshuron, director of Lincoln Street Center for the Arts, president of the Mid-Coast Mental Health board, and founder and director of ParentWorks.A lifelong and passionate Democrat, she was elected to many positions locally and statewide, including Rockland City Council, mayor of Rockland and senator for the state of Maine in 1985-86. She championed the rights of battered women and the interests of children in divorce. She was honored by the Maine Bar Association with the Dana Award in 1989 for humanitarian work as a lawyer. It was a great honor for her when the governor of Maine marked Jan. 13, 2007, as Jean Chalmers Day in gratitude for the legacy of service for her beloved state.
She relocated to Hanover, N.H., for her last years. She resided in Quail Hallow for many years, then was a resident in Hanover Terrace Nursing Home for two years, receiving professional and compassionate care. A week before she died, she commented to a nurse’s aide, “It’s people like you that make this such a good place.” She remained generous of spirit to the end.
Jean leaves a large family of four children and seven grandchildren who loved her greatly and will always remember her: David Bard Schwarz, his wife, Ania Bard, of Denton, Texas, and grandson Jakob Schwarz of Dallas; Dina Schwarz Fisher, her husband, Tim Fisher, of Hartford, Conn., and grandson Etan Wenger of Los Angeles; Jonathan Schwartz and his partner, Victoria Skydancer of San Diego; and Adam Schwarz, his wife, Gail Rickards, of Hanover, N.H., and grandchildren Maxwell, Samuel, Lois and Diana Rickards Schwarz. She is also survived and will be sorely missed by her brother, Douglas Chalmers, and his wife, Janet Chalmers, of New York, N.Y.; her sister Meg Chalmers and her wife, Judy Young, of Fort Meyers, Fla., and her sister Tiela Chalmers and partner Nancy Stewart of San Francisco.
A memorial service will be held Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, 50 Willow St., Rockland. Contributions may be made in her honor to ParentWorks, c/o Home Counselors Inc., 375 Main St., Rockland, ME 04841. May her memory be a blessing.