Jean Gavin Perretti

WINSTED — Jean Gavin Perretti died Feb. 16, 2011, at the age of 81. She was the widow of John F. “Jack” Perretti, who died Aug. 13, 2010.

She was the daughter of Laura and Clarence Gavin and was born Oct. 23, 1929, in Wallingford, Conn., where she graduated from the Lyman Hall High School in 1947.

She continued her education and studied art at the Wilcox Technical School in Meriden, Conn. (1948), the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan (1949), and the Traphagen School of Design in Manhattan, where she eventually earned her degree in 1950 with an emphasis in exhibit design.

From 1950 to 1956, Jean worked full-time for the Lerner Shops as the creative director for the East Coast division. She enjoyed being an early pioneer as a “career woman,” who, as she liked to say, “carried a hatbox and flew when airplane travel was still considered glamorous.”

After meeting John Perretti and marrying in 1955, Jean started a family and her formal education in sculpture. She studied sculpture under John Risley of Wesleyan University and Ann Lehman of New Haven in the 1960s.

Her first concentration in sculpture was small-scale metal jewelry, much of it geometric or spiral in design, which became very popular in the 1970s to wear in northwest Connecticut. As she developed as an artist, she made larger-scale pieces in her studio in the former Winsted Hosiery factory building on Whiting Street.

Jean mainly constructed her sculptures from found metal she welded with an acetylene torch. Much of her work made a social comment on subjects ranging from the throwaway society to legalized gambling. One of her best-known pieces, “Atlantic City ’78” is a combination of wood and old metal car tailpipes, which gives the impression of a twisted boardwalk, a representation of her commentary on the negative effects gambling had on that resort city.

Over three decades, Jean completed 75 compositions, exhibiting at numerous art shows and winning several juried prizes.

Her artist flare captured her husband’s heart for 55 years. They were best friends. Each day started with, “What’s our adventure today, Jack?” Jean and Jack shared their interests and passions with each other, attending sports car races at Lime Rock, visiting museums, nurturing and growing a garden together, appreciating art and music, finding a place to eat off the beaten path, or just simply taking a car ride to Millerton to buy tea at Harney & Sons.

Jean was always a partner in adventure and was the queen of the day trip. In her travels, and especially in meeting new people and holding dear her closest friends, Jean saw the “art” and beauty in the little things and the people she loved.

She had a keen ability for connecting with people because she sincerely cared about them, their interests and life struggles. With an artist’s touch, she reminded all of us how special we were to her, and how precious life is, sometimes in a handmade card, a newspaper clipping or a few poignant, thoughtful and kind words she wrote that touched our hearts.

Her friends will remember Jean sitting at home at the table, looking upon her precious meadow, her window to the family and friends she so dearly loved, taking the time to connect with all, her hand to pen, deliberately and carefully crafting just the right thought she knew was needed.

In her long illness, Jean was ever so positive and brave. Because she knew how to live, she continued to make new friends while at Geer Village, and greatly appreciated her relationships with her caregivers. She was a “mom” and artist muse to many, always encouraging others to live life to the fullest — to step outside into the pouring rain, bar of soap in hand, and enjoy the crisp, white sheets blowing on the clothesline.

In addition to her parents and husband, she was predeceased by her brother, Gregory Gavin.

She is survived by her daughters and son-in-law, Lisa and Jim Bodenstedt and Leslie Perretti; a sister, Joan Withrow-Cooper, and her children, Gregory and Bradley Withrow; a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Patricia (Perretti) and Lawrence Lagan; her nephews, Christopher Lagan and his wife, Trudy, and James Lagan; and many dear neighbors and cherished friends.

The family would like to thank the caregivers at Geer Nursing and Rehabilitation and Geer Village, not only for the superb medical care, but also in giving of themselves and sharing in Jean’s wonderful spirit.

The family will receive friends on Friday, Feb. 25, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Montano-Shea Funeral Home, 922 Main St., Winsted. Prayers will be offered at 3 p.m. An online guestbook can be found at Montano-Shea.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in memory to American Mural Project, PO Box 538, 100 Whiting St., Winsted, CT 06098.