Jeanne Field Spallone, 80
Jeanne Field Spallone of Sunset Hill and Deep River, Conn., died Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn. after a short illness. She was a former probate judge, Connecticut state legislator, reporter and long-time summer resident of Block Island.
Jeanne Carol Field was born January 18, 1928 in New York City to Flora Kopp Field and Charles William Field. She was raised in Manhattan, the Bronx and other locales in the greater New York area. She was a graduate of Julia Richman High School. She attended New York University for a year, then matriculated at the University of Connecticut from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1950.
Spallone met her husband of 57 years at UConn. They were married in 1950 and settled in Deep River. In the 1950s and again in the 1960s, Spallone worked as an executive assistant to the late Chester Bowles, the former governor of Connecticut, United States congressman and ambassador to India. Her work with Bowles led to a decades-long involvement with local politics. She was a member of the Deep River Democratic Town Committee for more than 50 years.
Spallone ran for state representative from Deep River three times, winning a seat at the age of 32 for the historic 1959-1961 session, when the Democrats gained a majority in the state House of Representatives for the first time in more than 80 years. She introduced a bill, which became law, allowing direct election of regional school board members.
A working journalist at various times in the ’50s, ’60s and 1970s, Spallone wrote news and features for the Middletown Press. She was published in Harper’s Bazaar, the Encyclopedia of New York City and the Block Island Times. She also wrote a history of the Revolutionary War veterans buried in the Winthrop Cemetery in Deep River entitled “A Watch to Keep.” She was a long-time member of the Deep River and the Block Island historical societies.
In 1978, Spallone was elected probate judge for the District of Deep River, a position she held for 16 years. In retirement, she wrote occasional newspaper articles and columns, wrote a children’s book, set on Block Island that she was hoping to publish at the time of her death, and enjoyed spending time with her family at her summer cottage on Block Island.
Spallone first came to Block Island with her family in 1962. Her first visit came about when the owner of Cutting Cottages called back with an unexpected vacancy just before Spallone placed a call to Martha’s Vineyard. She returned every summer for the next 44 years. In 1970 she and her husband built a small cottage on a dirt lane off High Street that they finished over the ensuing decades, filling it with an eclectic collection of beach finds.
She was a member of the Block Island Club and served as its president.
Spallone was an avid genealogist. While researching her father’s family history, she was fascinated and amused to learn that she was a direct descendant of James Sands, one of the 16 original Block Island settlers. She was also delighted to discover the remarkable coincidence that her island lot was once part of the Sands homestead.
Spallone was predeceased by her husband, Judge Daniel F. Spallone, last year.
She is survived by her daughter, Janne Spallone-Conrad of Watertown, Conn., her son, Niel F. Spallone of Deep River, her son James Field Spallone and daughter-in-law Alix, of Essex and three grandchildren, Sarah Christie of New York, N.Y., Summer Riker of Block Island and Tristan P.W. Spallone of Essex, Conn.
Burial will be private. A public memorial service will be held on Thursday, August 14 at 4 p.m. at the Deep River Congregational Church, 1 Church Street, Deep River. Arrangements are through Robinson, Wright & Weymer of Centerbrook.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: The Valley Shore Animal Welfare League, P.O. Box 1134, Westbrook, CT 06498 or the Block Island Historical Society, P.O. Box 79, Block Island, RI 02807.