Jeanne Schenck Erskine, 100

Jeanne Schenck Erskine, a Wilton native, died at the age of 100 on July 20 in Reno, Nevada, where she had lived for several years. Born on January 22, 1913, she was the daughter of Ernest and Grace Knight Schenck, who came to Wilton in 1911 and greatly enlarged an old farmhouse, which they named “Graenest.”  The site, south of Wilton Center where the Stop & Shop Plaza now stands, is marked by part of the original stone wall and the iron gate near the entrance. Jeanne was predeceased by an older brother Philip Schenck and a younger sister Georgiana Schenck Gregerson.

Jeanne had many fond memories of growing up in Wilton — watching her mother make jellies for the soldiers in World War I and seeing the young women of the Womens Land Army who lived with them to work in the fields while the men were in the service. She enjoyed outdoor activities — wading in the river, nature walks, and riding on the hay wagon from the fields on Schenck’s Island. She got her first horse at age 12 and became an accomplished horsewoman, winning many medals in local events.

Jeanne attended the Thomas School in Norwalk, often commuting by horse, and graduated from Vassar in 1933. Her family were all musical and her own love for music started early, with piano lessons from the Rev. Hollister. After college, she taught music in New York and Wilton and received an MA in Composition from Columbia. She later taught at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington and in Denver.

In 1946 she and several musical Wilton friends established an informal group which they called the “No Friends of Music” who just played for their own enjoyment. A year later, Jeanne and Stowell Rounds, President of the Wilton Library, organized the Candlelight Concerts to bring high-quality chamber music to Wilton. The concerts still continue in their 66th season.

She married Bill Karstens Jr. in Wilton in 1936 and her two children were born here: Bill Karstens III of North Hero, VT and Joan Karstens Rhoades of Citrus Heights, CA. She is also survived by four grandchildren, William (Sandy) Karstens, Sofia Karstens London, Charles Bradley Rupert, and Nancy Cristine Wilson, six great-grandchildren, and her second husband Basil Reeve of Denver. Her third husband was the late Graham Erskine of Wilton and Reno.

Although Jeanne left Wilton, Wilton never left her. She recorded her memories for the Wilton bicentennial DVD in 2002. Her legacy lives on with Schenck’s Island, the Candlelight Concerts, and the many friends who remember her. Memorial gifts may be made to the Town of Wilton, Schenck’s Island fund.