Jean “Je-Je” Harding Pierce of Boca Grande, Fla. and Woods Hole, Mass., passed away peacefully on Friday, May 6, 2022 in Boca Grande, at the age of 94. Born February 29, 1928 in Canada to Fred and Lillian Harding, Je-Je was a “leap year” baby. She was a graduate of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H. and the University of Maine, Orono. Following graduation Je-Je taught elementary school in Massachusetts.
Je-Je met her husband-to-be Robert W. Pierce (Bob) at age 17. Enjoying a courtship while she was at Colby-Sawyer College and Bob was at Dartmouth, they married after college. Together they raised their family in Wellesley, Mass., where Bob founded Pierce Aluminum in 1967. They were married 42 years, until his death in 1993.
As an only child, Je-Je was adored by her mother, Lillian, who, when asked about having only one child, replied, “I stopped at perfection.” On Je-Je’s paternal side of the family were her grandparents, Ami and George Harding, who invited “Jean” up for the summers to Saint John, New Brunswick. Ami was a stickler for etiquette and a strict disciplinarian who drew Jean’s deep, abiding respect and reverence. Her example and role model influenced Je-Je throughout her life. It is during these formative years that she developed a talent and love for ballet and dance; a career she considered before choosing to be an educator. She went on to teach third grade for a number of years before starting her family, undoubtedly preparing her for raising five sons.
She and Bob delighted in teaching the boys sailing, tennis, skiing and a love for competitive sports. The center of their vacation and weekend activities was at their second home at Slope ’n Shore Club in New London, N.H. The family swam, sailed, waterskied and honed their tennis skills in the summer and skied Ragged Mountain in the winter amid a cadre of fun-loving people.
Je-Je was a formidable athlete, excelling at both tennis and skiing. She was a willing participant in all sports; ready to swing a golf club, racquet or paddle. When she was unable to play, she cheered. A loyal fan of the Red Sox and New England Patriots, she rarely missed a game. In her later years, Je-Je never lost her competitive spirit. Her love of bridge, which she discovered while in college, stayed with her throughout her life. She enjoyed the camaraderie of her weekly bridge groups in Woods Hole and Boca Grande.
Her support of Bob’s burgeoning business—whipping up culinary masterpieces for his associates while raising the family’s five active sons—was legendary. She was the housekeeper, social director, chef, gardener, party planner and consummate hostess. Je-Je’s desire to create sumptuous cuisine led to many transatlantic trips to France and Italy, where she continued to further her knowledge and expertise. Kind and generous, she loved to laugh and enjoyed creating limericks and storytelling. She had a natural talent for bringing people together and making each occasion special. An enthusiastic and creative planner, her parties were memorable in every way, sometimes involving costumes and elaborate themes, but always with a clever invitation showcasing her inimitable humor and way with words.
Je-Je could often be heard exclaiming, “What a riot!” “Terrific!!!” or “Hysterical!” She will be remembered for her infectious laugh, grace, fairness, direct manner and her glamorous sunglasses. She lit up the room with her charismatic warmth and zest for life. In recent years, she was fond of telling the story of a shopping trip with her son Richard to Walmart. When her oxygen line became ensnared, she quipped, “If I should die in Walmart, drag my body to Sak’s.” She was one of a kind.
Je-Je and Bob traveled the world extensively. Whether boating along the New England coast, Gulf of Mexico, Virgin Islands, Adriatic Sea or navigating the Nile River, they were just as happy to stay close to home — cruising over to Cayo Costa for the day or going out to Hadley’s Harbor for a sunset cocktail. Wherever they went, they created wonderful memories with friends and family.
After Bob’s passing, Je-Je immersed herself in philanthropic efforts. She took leadership roles as a trustee at Colby-Sawyer College, the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association, the Marine Biological Laboratory, Heritage Museums & Gardens and the Boca Grande Woman’s Club, serving as President.
She was an active member of the Woods Hole Golf Club, Wellesley Country Club, Slope ’n Shore Club, the Boca Grande Club, Lemon Bay Golf Club and the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club. She supported the Boca Grande Health Clinic Foundation, Royal Palm Players and many other Boca Grande organizations.
Je-Je was predeceased by her son Winthrop Leeds Pierce, who died in 2004. She is survived by her sons, Robert W. Pierce, Jr. (Carroll), Jeffrey H. Pierce (Margaret), Frederick H. Pierce (Julia) and Richard T. Pierce, by eleven grandchildren and five great grandchildren. She leaves behind a nephew, Rick Pevear, and a niece, Susan Pevear.
The family would like to thank and acknowledge those who took exceptional care of Je-Je in recent years, especially her son Richard.
There will be a private interment at Woodlawn Cemetery with a celebration of Je-Je’s life to be held in Woods Hole, Mass. this summer and in Boca Grande this winter.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Je-Je’s memory may be made to the Boca Grande Woman’s Club or the Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, Mass.