Jean Potter

Jean Ishbel Potter (MacCormick)

Saturday, March 14th, 1931 - Friday, July 3rd, 2020
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Potter, Jean M. (MacCormick)

Of Arlington, age 89. Passed away peacefully at home with her family on Friday, July 3. Survived by her four children: Anna Potter of Vermont, and Anna’s daughter, Marguerite Dooley of Chicago; Andrew Potter, his wife Anne Donovan and their son Owen Potter, of Brooklyn, New York; James Potter of San Francisco, California, and Margaret Potter and her husband Wilbur Kim, and their children Alexander, Daniel, William, and Isabella of Arlington, Massachusetts. Also survived by her brother, James MacCormick and his wife Sue MacCormick, and their children Kimberly, Kevin, and Michael MacCormick, of California. Also survived by Birnie family in-laws in California, and many MacCormick family members in Scotland.

Jean was known for her extraordinary kindness, patience, warmth, generosity and love of children. She cared deeply about social justice issues, progressive politics, historic preservation and the welfare of those around her. She was a valued contributor and cherished member of a diverse set of communities and associations, but her greatest joy was being with and delighting in her family.

After growing up as the daughter of a prominent Presbyterian Minister in Southern California, Jean attended Occidental College where she studied philosophy and education and met her former husband, Ralph Potter. Before moving to the Boston area in 1958, she spent three formative years as a missionary in Appalachia. Jean lived in Arlington from 1965 to the end of her life, except for one year split between Bethesda, Maryland and Paris, France.

As Director of the Arlington Heights Nursery School from 1971-2005, Jean contributed to the growth and well-being of thousands of children and mentored generations of teachers and parents. She brought a deep understanding of child development to the creation of a warm, welcoming environment where children thrived. She was a pioneer of inclusion of children with special needs long before this was common practice or mandated by law. After earning a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University in her fifties, she was a respected teacher of Early Childhood Education at Middlesex Community College for many years.

Jean attended the Memorial Church in Cambridge for over five decades, where she had many cherished friends. Her church community was an important and meaningful part of her life. Over the years she served on the board of directors of the Arlington Historical Society, the Middlesex Canal Association, the League of Woman Voters, Arlington Heights Nursery School, and the Boston Association for the Education of Young Children Directors’ Conference Committee. In the 1970’s, she and other directors created the Arlington Early Childhood Association, a professional group that still meets monthly. She was a founding member and long-time stalwart of the original Arlington Food Coop and devoted member of Arlington Civil Rights and Fair Housing groups. She volunteered in her children’s schools, hosted METCO and exchange students and was a Girl Scout leader and a Cub Scout Den Mother.

Through it all Jean found time for voracious reading on a wide range of topics. She organized camping trips and was an accomplished seamstress, knitter, quilter, baker and gardener. She enjoyed taking her children and later grandchildren to concerts, cultural events and historical sites. She loved older homes and as the owner of one learned basic carpentry, wallpapering and painting and how to re-finish furniture. After being told several times by professionals that a replacement washing machine was needed, she disassembled and fixed the old one herself!

Jean was the daughter of immigrants, her mother Azalia (Rothery) from
Wallaceburg, Ontario and her father Andrew MacCormick from Kirkconnel, Dumfries Scotland. She treasured her Scottish heritage in particular and remained in touch with Kirkconnel relatives throughout her life.

There was always room for “one more” at her table, as friends, neighbors, early childhood colleagues, fellow activists, members of her church community, and of course her children and their friends learned. Always compassionate, Jean will live on in the hearts of many and will be deeply missed.

There will be a celebration of Jean’s life planned in the future. Private interment by DeVito Funeral Service. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to The Jean Potter Early Childhood Inclusion Fund: Arlington Heights Nursery School, 10 Acton St., Arlington MA 02476.
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Private Condolence

Carol Sullivan-Hanley

Posted at 02:07pm
I met Jean when I was in the Child Study student at AHS in the ‘70’s. I went on to get a BS at Wheelock and a M.Ed at Lesley. Forty two years later, I am still in the ECE field. I credit Jean Potter as an early mentor❤️. Carol Sullivan-Hanley

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