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Jean Reycroft Summerville

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Jean Reycroft Summerville, 94, of St. Louis, Missouri, and Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, died peacefully on Jan. 22, 2020, in the home of her daughter, Mary “Del” Newquist in Rochester, New York. Additional survivors include her son, the Rev. Jay Summerville of St. Louis, her daughter, Rebecca (Jon) Barlow of Missoula, Montana, three grandchildren: Katharine (Dave) Snyder, Matthew Newquist and Jay Barlow; and many loving friends, nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her younger son, Robert (“Rob”) Summerville.

Mrs. Summerville was born on May 13, 1925, the daughter of Arthur G. Reycroft and Helen McMillan Reycroft in Monessen, Pennsylvania. She was predeceased by her four siblings: Dr. Dorothy (Dr. William) Hollingsworth, Robert Reycroft (who died in childhood), Mary Ellen (Arch) Moran, and Barbara Sellers.

Mrs. Summerville graduated from Monessen High School in 1942, received her B.S. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from West Virginia University in 1945, and her M.S. degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1947 while working as a Teaching Assistant.

Having spent summers at Chautauqua Institution from earliest childhood, Mrs. Summerville raised her family in nearby Corry, Pennsylvania. In Corry, she also worked outside the home as a regular substitute teacher at Corry Area High School and was active in the First Presbyterian Church and numerous volunteer organizations. In 1971, Mrs. Summerville moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, where she was a biology teacher at Charlotte High School and was also an adjunct instructor in biology at Edison Community College until her retirement. At Charlotte High, Mrs. Summerville was the faculty adviser for the student STEP club that worked to promote environmental responsibility. Following “retirement,” Mrs. Summerville worked for an additional 10 years as a regular substitute teacher at the Charlotte Harbor School serving children with developmental disabilities.

In 1985, during a sabbatical from teaching, Mrs. Summerville studied at the Flathead Lake Bio Station of the University of Montana and then worked as a volunteer at the San Diego Zoo on a project to hatch Condor eggs and prepare the fledglings for release into the wild.

In 2011, Mrs. Summerville moved from Florida to Independent Living at Aberdeen Heights, a Presbyterian Senior Living Community in St. Louis. She was a member of Second Presbyterian Church of St. Louis.

A lifelong voracious reader, Mrs. Summerville also enjoyed boating, kayaking, shell and specimen gathering, fishing, scuba diving, bird watching, counted cross stitch, watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, buying and selling antiques and collectibles and riding her classic Schwinn bicycle well into her 90s. Known for her sociability, Mrs. Summerville easily made and kept friends of all ages who were attracted to her cheerful and optimistic zest for life and to her empathetic, kind and generous interest in other people.

As a Chautauquan from early childhood, Mrs. Summerville often said that one of the life accomplishments of which she was most proud was being elected captain of the Blue team of the Cherokees, the middle age group of the three Chautauqua Girls’ Club groups in the mid-1930s. Each summer until she was 93, she could be spotted most days riding her Schwinn bike to the Chautauqua Post Office or library, stopping often along the way for porch chats.

A service of interment of Mrs. Summerville’s ashes in Chautauqua Cemetery, Chautauqua, NY, and a reception will be held at a time convenient to friends and family. 

Although memorial donations are not requested, those who nevertheless would like to make such might consider the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (USA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY, 40202, an agency to which Mrs. Summerville made annual donations to honor her children and grandchildren.

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