Jean E. Borkowski died of a broken heart on Tuesday, July 11, 2015, having lost her beloved Norman in March. She was born Jean Martha Eager on April 23, 1932 in Woodbury, N.J. She was the only child of Martha (Renninger) Eager and Joseph Franklin Eager. Her father worked as an engineer for Public Service Electric & Gas, and the family lived on a small farm in Westville Grove.
Since childhood, Jean had a love of horses. Her father gave her a retired Army horse, which she named Silver. He taught her to ride, and also to hunt and fish. She would spend summers at the Jersey shore, staying with her aunts and uncles. She grew up watching the serial westerns, and imagined herself as Roy Rogers while riding her horse. She would tell my sister and me of her adventures riding to school, and of a particular abandoned house where she would lasso the old picket fence, or shoot out the broken windows. Later, Silver would be replaced with a Model A. Mom also always loved her cars, and drove until April of this year.
Jean graduated in 1949 from Woodbury High School, and from there earned her Comptometer Pin at business school. She worked for a time at the Paulsboro, N.J., facility of Mobil Oil where she met her husband and best friend, Norman (my Dad). While there, she was an accountant in the payroll department, and she made sure she delivered Norman’s weekly paycheck personally. They married in 1955. She would tell how she knew she and Dad would be married the very first day she met him.
She and Dad moved to Wilton, Conn., to our home on Drum Hill Road in January 1960, along with my sister, Susan, and me. Jean was from a very small family, and had no brothers or sisters of her own, and her parents both died when she was a young adult. She took care of her mother through her last days in their home while raising my sister as an infant. Her mother died before I was born, and her father died a few years later, when my mother was in her early 30s. But mom was nothing if not about family. It often seemed to be the one thing that mattered to her — taking care of and being with her family — even as it extended.
She loved, and was loved, greatly by Norman’s parents and his brother and two sisters. They became her new family. Jean was a wonderful cook, although she would tell you that Norman, and his mother, Elizabeth, had taught her. We always had a good meal on the table every night, and I will forever remember the days sitting around the table during dinner and right after, where everyone caught up on each other’s day. So many memories around food — like getting off of the school bus on certain days, and the aroma of her spaghetti sauce filling the air. I would get so excited and run into the house, and the rest of the afternoon I would try to sneak in and “test” the sauce whenever I could. Or, when I was in high school, Mom and I discovered the charms of a chocolate cake, just warm out of the oven. It started as a nibble, but soon we had each cut a small but noticeable slice out of the cake and ate it. When Dad came home that night, we presented the now-frosted cake with the slice missing. Mom showed him the box picture, with the slice missing, and explained that was how it had come out of the oven. Until he retired, I don’t think Dad ever saw a whole cake again.
Jean loved to garden, and spent much time caring for her flowers and the birds that visited. She was always active, and took care of the yard and house. In 1987 she suffered a heart attack, and had 5-bypasses performed. But it didn’t slow her down; Dad got her back on her feet, and she continued to do all the things she did before, even mowing the lawn. It was her exercise and kept her healthy, she said.
She loved to travel, and she and Dad spent many years traveling to Ireland where my sister lived, and died (in 2013). She created a veritable library of photo albums, and carefully preserved and documented every moment of their trips. They also took many trips with their only grandson, Jason, seeing the world from the car, and Disney World often.
She loved to read; though she didn’t go to college, she was very bright and conversant on many subjects because of her love of reading. In cleaning about the house, I recently found 544 paperbacks, and an equal number of hard books. Her favorites were mysteries, intrigue, and historical novels.
In a few words, Jean was a bright, happy, caring, lovely lady. She fought to make a place for herself in the world, and to take care of all those around her. The saddest part of her life was dementia ,which tried to rob us of her, but even with that, you could see her fighting to stay in the here and now, and she remained spirited trying to hang on. Being separated from Dad, her Norman, was the one thing she couldn’t surmount, because she didn’t want to be apart from him any longer. They are together once again.