Jean (Andrewartha) Ray, 70, a cherished mother, devoted friend, esteemed educator and a pillar of the Haverhill community, passed away peacefully at her home in Bradford on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Jean was born on Sept. 26, 1953 to the late Alfred J. Andrewartha and Alberta Andrewartha in Haverhill. Born and raised in Bradford, Jean was a proud graduate of Haverhill High School class of 1971 and went on to study at Emmanuel College where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French in 1975 and in 1976, earned a master’s degree from an exchange program at the University of Valencia in Spain.
In 1983, Jean married her high school classmate and late husband, Dennis, embarking on a life brimming with love, adventure and a shared commitment to family and community. True to her spirited nature, Jean indulged in a pre-wedding cocktail at the Cask N’ Flagon, donned in her wedding gown. Together, they raised their daughter, Colleen, who later became a Haverhill High School track captain, perpetuating the family’s legacy of dedication to education and Hillie pride.
In 1976, Jean began her career in education, where she spent seven years teaching at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsborough, before returning to Haverhill Public Schools in 1983, following in the footsteps of her late mother, Alberta. Jean taught French, German, Latin and Spanish at all four middle schools in Haverhill (JG Whittier, Nettle, Hunking, and Consentino) before returning to Haverhill High School, where she served as a Spanish teacher from 2003-2017. From 2010-2017, Jean spearheaded Read Across America initiatives, often dressing as the Cat in the Hat to inspire a love of reading in young minds.
Beyond the classroom, Jean was the heartbeat of Haverhill High School. Known for her genuine kindness and unwavering support, she played a pivotal role in students’ lives, imparting valuable life lessons that range from the ordinary (“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”) to the extraordinary (“Dogs do like to wear costumes!”). Whether solving last-minute prom crises, stepping in for parents on senior night, sitting front row at every graduation or offering guidance, Jean touched the lives of many. She was a staunch supporter of the theatre arts department and could always be found in the audience of school plays, chorus, and band performances. As the Hillies’ No. 1 sports fan, Jean attended every football, hockey and basketball game with unwavering enthusiasm and minimal complaints about the weather. Her commitment to Hillies Athletics led the Haverhill High School hockey team to create an annual scholarship each year in Jean’s name, and in 2008, Jean created a scholarship in memory of her late husband Dennis Ray.
In 2017, after more than 40 years of dedicated service, Jean retired from teaching, leaving behind a profound legacy. Her “farewell tour” as she referred to it, included reprising her Cat in the Hat role, visiting every kindergarten and elementary school to celebrate Read Across America Day. Her contributions were recognized with the 2017 Educator of the Year award by the YMCA of the North Shore.
Jean’s philanthropic spirit extended far beyond the classroom, as she quietly embraced the joy of giving. Unbeknownst to many, she anonymously adopted families during Christmas, personally delivering gifts and food to ensure they experienced the warmth of the season, and she encouraged others to do the same. In her unassuming way, Jean also had a knack for turning around a friend’s bad day. It was not uncommon for those in need of a pick-me-up to find a surprise treat awaiting them on their doorstep, or to receive an envelope filled with cherished photos capturing the happiest of memories, a testament to Jean’s kindness that knew no bounds.
Jean’s love for Spain had a profound impact on her life and left an indelible mark on her teaching philosophy. After college, Jean’s commitment to understanding and embracing the Spanish culture led her to live with host families in Valencia, where she immersed herself in the local language and traditions. Jean created many fond memories with her Spain family, including learning how to make homemade paella. Her time in Spain brought many wonderful friendships to her life; bonds that were forged through exploration and escapades across Valencia, and rooted in shared adventures and experiences. These experiences enriched her lessons at Haverhill High School, where Jean regularly regaled her classes with stories of the Running of the Bulls, instilling a sense of curiosity and exploration in her students. Through the years, Jean kept in touch with her host families, and hosted them here in the states in 2019. In true Jean fashion, she built out a full itinerary that perfectly captured the essence of New England life.
The beach held a special place in her heart; her summers were synonymous with Seabrook Beach, where she vacationed with her family and friends every summer for the last 40 years. When she wasn’t hosting lobster boils and setting up camp at the beach, Jean loved to explore the beaches of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with family and friends. She created countless traditions with her loved ones that she looked forward to every year, including trips to Clark’s Trading Post and the Polar Caves. Jean was an avid skier and an enthusiastic supporter of Virginia Tech football and University of New Hampshire tailgates. She lived life to the fullest, and she encouraged every person in her life to do the same.
Jean leaves behind a legacy of love, warmth, relentless spirit and an unwavering commitment to the Brown and Gold. She is survived by her beloved daughter, Colleen E. Ray of Haverhill, who continues to carry the torch of Hillie pride in her mother’s footsteps, as well as cherished nieces, nephews and grand-nieces and nephews who were all touched by her enduring love and enthusiasm.
Jean will be deeply missed by the entire Haverhill community, including countless friends that are left with memories filled with love, laughter, adventure, and hi-jinks, including the FDL Society, hundreds of students and former colleagues, and her extended family at Cedardale Health and Fitness, where Jean worked at the front desk for decades.
As we say goodbye to our forever Hillie, Jean Ray, visitation will be held on Friday, Dec.8, in the Driscoll Funeral Home, 309 S. Main St., Haverhill from 2-8 p.m. Funeral Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday in All Saints Church, 120 Bellevue Ave., Haverhill at 11 a.m. Please meet directly at church. Interment will follow in Elmwood Cemetery, Haverhill. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jean Ray Scholarship Fund by mailing a donation to P.O. Box 5493, Haverhill, MA, 01835. Jean’s legacy will live on as future generations of Hillies honor her memory on the fields, courts, and ice at Haverhill High School sporting events.