Once in a while you might be privileged enough to meet someone who is able to see things in you that you are not able to see in yourself. Someone who accepts you for who you are, but also encourages you to become all that you can be. Jean Duncan-Day was such a person, to me and for many others in the gay and lesbian community.
Jean was many things — a therapist, an advocate, head of a family, a community builder, a partner and an out and proud lesbian. But most of all Jean was a loving, gentle soul who I am proud to call my friend.
You may have met Jean as a member of Gays And Lesbians Aging in the early 1980s. Or you may have been part of her Buddhist group. Or you may have known her through the Gay Old Gals or the Crones, both support groups she founded for older lesbians.
Jean believed that older women, in particular lesbians, were too often forgotten. She was on the advisory committee to the mayor on aging. In her 70s, Jean focussed on developing support systems for older lesbians. Jean’s hope was to reclaim the word “crone” to mean a spiritual, wise older woman. She exemplified the word.
Jean was involved with many community organizations, too numerous to list here, and was always active in the groups that she belonged to.
She had a deep sense of commitment for everything she did. If there was work to be done, Jean would be the first to volunteer. Her efforts weren’t for personal glory. She was never in the papers or on the news but worked quietly behind the scenes to do what needed to be done.
What you saw was what you got. Jean never had ulterior motives or hidden agendas and she had little patience for those who did. She was a loyal, trust-worthy and considerate friend, therapist, activist and partner.
Jean was in a wheelchair the last couple of years. I used to take her for coffee on Church St and was constantly amazed at the number of people who would stop us to say hello to her. For those of you who did, you need to know how pleased Jean was every time you stopped.
Jean was the single mother of four children, Charlene Day, Jan Kreut, Kathy Keen and Ken Day. She has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In 1977, at the age of 50, Jean enrolled at York University, where she attained a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of social work. It’s also where she became aware of her growing attraction to women.
Jean’s talent for helping others led her to become a psychotherapist. Her expertise was working with women who had a history of sexual and physical abuse. She felt it was a privilege to be able to walk beside her clients to support them as they confronted their past and created change for their future.
Although Jean fought hard to maintain her own independence, she had to leave her precious apartment at Jarvis and Wellesley after her second stroke and move to Fudger House. She was the only out lesbian in both Fudger House and, later, at Wellesley Central Place. She continued to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of seniors, educating the workers at Fudger House and at Wellesley Central Place where the voices of the residents are most often silent.
Jean was active in her community until the very end. She rode on the Fudger House bus in last June’s Pride Parade.This year she was nominated for grand marshal.
She is not going to be there this year but in my mind’s eye I will see her in the front of the parade, dressed in purple, a beautiful smile, waving to the crowds and totally amazed that the Goddess has allowed her such a wonderful life with so many friends.