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Jean (Tanton) Huntington

March 18, 2016
Lake Placid News

On March 9, 2016, at the age of 91, Jean Huntington died suddenly at her home in Wilmington, not 500 yards from the farm house where she was born, in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain.

Jean's life was largely defined by the happenings of this slender mountain valley, cut steeply by the AuSable River, and she found true meaning in her family in the great people of the Adirondacks, and in attending to the world's travelers.

Jean was born Jan. 17, 1925, to Ernest and Lauretta Tanton in Wilmington.

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In 1917, her parents had moved to the North Country from their native Prince Edward Island, Canada, where her father had become an experienced fur rancher, upon the promise of building a family and breeding silver foxes in a pristine Adirondack river valley. Following the births of Alder and Mary in P.E.I., Jean was the first U.S.-born citizen in her family, at their home at the end of Fox Farm Road. The births of Anna and Alvin Tanton soon followed.

Jean's childhood days were spent at the North Woods Silver Fox Farm, raising chickens and cattle and tending the gardens and silver foxes with her dad. Jean's first memories were of coming downstairs to visit her father as he tended the wood stove during the brutally cold Adirondack winter nights, visiting the fishermen along the banks of the AuSable River when the mayflies started hatching off the river like magic in spring, and having the best seat available, upon her brother's shoulders, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Whiteface Memorial Highway atop Whiteface.

Upon graduating from Lake Placid High School in 1941, Jean immediately joined the war effort and went to work in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Geneva, New York, primarily working as a governess for family friends and then as an accounting clerk at Shuron Optical. Once the war ended, she returned to Lake Placid and worked on Main Street at Shea's Market, handling the books for the Shea family, not 10 paces away from her good friend and local raconteur Charlie Farrell, the butcher.

During her time at Shea's, Jean happened to meet Halsey Huntington, who had moved upriver from AuSable Forks to live closer to his brother George Huntington, sister Molly Eddy and Uncle Halsey Morrison, who managed the Ruisseaumont property. Jean liked to tell stories of how life was on Main Street back then and how Halsey gave his first gift to her, a box of chocolates, on the sidewalk of Parkside Drive, right in front of Uncle Halsey's house.

Jean and Halsey married in 1947 and moved to Wilmington. After purchasing a portion of the silver fox ranch property to build the Huntington Motel & Cottages, they set out to have a family of their own. Bruce, Scott and Kent Huntington soon followed, as did thousands of dear guests who streamed into the Adirondacks every summer thereafter. While Halsey worked at the Lake Placid Club with his brother George, Jean ran the family lodging operation and became deeply involved in local politics.

During the off-season, Jean often worked at Placid Memorial Hospital, Uihlein Mercy Center and as a private-duty nurse. In 1978, she completed a college degree in nursing from North Country Community College and was proud to be a licensed practical nurse.

Jean was active in politics in the town of Wilmington and Essex County, and she was very active in the chamber of commerce. She happily served as a Wilmington town councilman for many years, like her father Ernest had and her son Bruce would. She saw Wilmington as an excellent incubator for young entrepreneurs, like herself, and an even better place to raise a family. Indeed, she took immense pleasure in the marked successes of her contemporaries in the chamber, which was a very diverse cast of soon-to-be local business legends, including the proprietors of Santa's Workshop, Ledge Rock Motel, The Hungry Trout and the Holiday Inn Motor Lodge. They were all young and "in business," and mostly in the business of raising - and entertaining - young kids in the Adirondacks.

Let there be no doubt that Jean was a lifelong Republican, as a long-term serving Republican committeeman for Essex County and an ardent supporter of the North Country's Republican leadership in Albany and Washington, D.C., including her close friend, the late, great Sen. Ronald B. Stafford of Plattsburgh and the late David O.B. Martin of Ogdensburg.

Jean is predeceased by her husband Halsey and survived by her three sons: Bruce and Scott Huntington of Wilmington, and Kent Huntington (Missy) of Chevy Chase, Maryland; her two grandchildren: Anne Marie and Grace Halsey Huntington; and her sister Anna Ross of Schenectady. Her brothers Alder Tanton and Alvin Tanton, sister Mary Lawrence, treasured brothers-in-law Herbert Lawrence and Donald Ross, and dear sisters-in-law Joyce Tanton and Beulah Tanton all predeceased her. Additionally, many, many loving nieces and nephews survive Jean, and they were deeply loved by her as well.

A memorial service is planned for this spring with a burial thereafter at the North Elba Cemetery in Lake Placid. The family suggests donations in Jean's name be made to the Wilmington Historical Society endowment fund or the Wilmington Rescue Squad.

Arrangements are entrusted to the M.B. Clark Inc. Funeral Home in Lake Placid.

Relatives and friends are invited to share a memory or prayer, order flowers or upload a photo for the family to cherish at www.mbclarkfuneralhome.com.

 
 

 

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