Longtime Ridgefield resident Jean Clair Brisbine Lewis, 105, has died

Jean Clair Brisbine Lewis, a long-time Ridgefielder, died March 9, 2023, just one month shy of her 106th birthday in her home at Meadow Ridge in Redding. Jean, who was predeceased by her husband Robert E. Lewis of 74 years, was a small-town girl from the plains of South Dakota who became a world traveler, an accomplished golfer and bridge player, a mom, grandma and great-grandmother. In her long life, she survived two pandemics, the Great Depression and multiple wars, breast cancer, the Digital Revolution, and a great big, beautiful mess of a family .

Born in Artesian, South Dakota, Jean grew up in nearby Woonsocket where her love of golf, dancing and driving were firmly instilled. As a 12-year-old, she could often be seen tooling around in her father's Ford Model-T. She was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated cum laude from the University of South Dakota. While working as secretary to the president of the South Dakota School of Mines, she met her future husband. Jean and Bob married in March 1943 and soon after moved to San Francisco, when Bob was recruited by Pan American Airways to fly Pacific wartime supply runs out of the city's Treasure Island. Jean worked for Bank of America before the birth of her children, Linda Lewis Drake and Robert L. Lewis.

Jean and Bob were transferred by Pan American a number of times after World War II-including a six-year stint in London. Although reluctant to take her children to a country still plagued by rationing and food shortages, the couple's years there were exciting as they traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East, skied in Austria, and golfed at England's exclusive Wentworth Club.

During that time, Jean also joined the Pam Am wives' group, visiting the elderly and making clothes for orphanages.

In 1957, the family moved to Ridgefield, a town of about 7,000 at the time, where Jean belonged to the Caudatowa Garden Club, a successful investment club, and a weekly bridge group. She volunteered to drive for Friends in Service Here (FISH) and participated in the young women's Pilgrim Guild and food pantry at the First Congregational Church, where she was a member. If there was one passion that defined her, however, it was her love of golf. Jean learned to play at the age of ten, honing what would become legendary putting skills on sand greens. She was also a straight-down-the-middle hitter with a short game that struck fear in the hearts of her adversaries. During her lifetime, she had three holes in one. She and Bob were original members of Salem Golf Club and later joined many of their friends at Silver Spring Country Club, where Jean served on numerous committees. Her work as Rules Chairman-teaching others to use the rules to their advantage-won her even greater esteem among her golfing community.

Jean has been described as spunky, stubborn, competitive, respected, and a huge influence in a pint-sized body. She was a "lady both on and off the course" and a good soldier who always followed the rules without complaint. Her secret to longevity-two Oreo cookies a day.

Jean is survived by her daughter Linda Drake of San Francisco; her son Robert Lewis and his wife Gerri of Ridgefield; grandchildren Tracy Drake of Chicago, Joanna Drake and husband Christopher Smith of San Francisco, Tyson Lewis of Brooklyn, Christian Lewis and wife Judi Lee of Ridgewood, NJ, Gillian Sheerin of Ridgefield, Claire Lewis of Ridgefield, and Damien Sheerin of Ridgefield; great-grandchildren Nicole Koerner and Natalie Drake of Chicago, Amanda and Natasha Earl of San Francisco, Shelby and Miles Lewis of Ridgefield, Lylah and Dylan Sheerin of Ridgefield, and Holden and Hunter Lewis of Ridgewood, NJ; and a sister-in-law Dorothy and husband Holly Reid of Amarillo, Texas; as well as many nieces, nephews and extended family. Jean was predeceased by her husband, brother "Tommy" and parents Tom and Lillian Brisbine and her great-grandson Leroy Hayes Lewis.

Her remains will be interred at the First Congregational Church columbarium in a private ceremony.

Contributions in Jean's memory may be made to the Town of Ridgefield Emergency Fund, 400 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877.


Submitted by Ridgefield, CT

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