Jean Austin (Spence) Furcht, 87, died on Aug. 20 at home in Mount Washington, covered by the warmth of a Mount Washington church fair quilt and surrounded by the love of her family. Jean, born Oct. 11, 1929, in New York City, the daughter of Malcolm Christie Spence and Kathryn Austin Spence, was raised in Scarsdale, New York. She earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Mount Holyoke College in 1951 and then completed a master’s degree in biochemistry at New York University in 1954. Jean worked as a researcher for Burroughs Wellcome Co. from 1951 until her marriage to Frederick “Bill” Furcht on June 9, 1956.
Jean and Bill lived in Walnut Creek, California; several East Coast locations; and in Mobile, Alabama, while raising their four children. Wherever Jean lived, she volunteered her time at her children’s schools and community organizations. In the mid-1970s at the United Methodist Church in Mobile, Jean played an instrumental role in the church’s sponsorship of a Vietnamese refugee “boat” family. This work was dearest to her heart as she helped welcome the Nguyen family and settle them in the United States. Jean remained in contact with the Nguyens throughout her life.
Jean volunteered at the Ramapo Bergen Animal Refuge in New Jersey and served as president for four years. She and Bill adopted many shelter dogs throughout their married life.
For most of her 87 years, Mount Washington was Jean’s most beloved place to be. She spent many summers and holidays, first at her grandparents’ summer home in the “club grounds,” and later with her Austin cousins at Blueberry Hill Farm. In 1948 she convinced her parents to buy a log cabin down the road from “The Farm.” Ridgeview Cabin was a cherished home away from home and, later, Jean brought husband and children to spend time with family and friends, creating countless memories of beautiful hikes, blueberry picking, clam bakes and family gatherings. Jean and Bill later built their own home on Mount Washington where they lived part-time until settling full-time late last year.
Another volunteer job dear to Jean’s heart was helping organize the “behind the scenes” set-up, clean-up, and general workings of the annual Mount Washington church fair. Every new homeowner in Mount Washington would get a visit from Jean welcoming them. That first conversation never ended without mention of the church fair and the suggestion/question that perhaps they’d like to volunteer their time at the fair.
Jean is survived by her husband of 61 years, Bill Furcht; her brother Richard Spence of Panama City, Panama; daughter Melinda Furcht of the Silver Springs, Maryland, area; son Peter Furcht, from Haverford, Pennsylvania, and wife Diane Sweeney and their children Tori, Ben and Lily; daughter Kathryn Furcht of Mount Washington; and son Tom Furcht and wife Lesliann Tomich Furcht and their children Alex and Carl of Mount Washington.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mount Washington Church of Christ or the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America through Birches-Roy Funeral Home, 33 South St., Great Barrington, MA 01230, which is in charge of arrangements. Condolences may also be made online through birchesroyfuneralservices.com.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Church of Christ, 118 East St., Mount Washington, followed by interment at the Cross Road Cemetery, also in Mount Washington. A reception will follow at the Mount Washington Town Hall. All those who knew and loved Jean are welcome.