Sperry & McHoul Funeral Home Obituaries

Jean C. Banker Buzzell, 78, on March 27, 2024

Jean Carol Banker Buzzell, R.N., M.S.N., C.N.S., F.N.P., 78, of North Attleboro, passed away peacefully on March 27, 2024, while taking a nap in her love-filled home of forty-eight years.    

Jeanie, as she was known to friends and family, was born on September 9, 1945, to Charles “Buster” Banker (superintendent of a copper mine) and Hilda Banker (a housekeeper), wonderful parents who taught her about generosity, family, and friends who became family.  Jeanie grew up in the idyllic village of Thetford Center, Vermont, on a road filled with generations of her family.  The youngest of four children, she adored her siblings, the late Richard S. “Snooky” Banker, USMC (and his surviving wife Priscilla Banker), the late James D. “Jimmy” Banker, USMC (and his late wives, Dorothy Banker and Marie Banker), and the late Nancy Piper.  Jeanie lovingly tended to both of her brothers in their final illnesses and is lovingly remembered by her nieces and nephews for this care.

Jeanie was a true Vermonter, spending her childhood days outside in nature, raising pet ducks, raising puppies borne by her dog Lu Lu, and learning to care for the Earth and its gardens.  She loved to fish and spent a week each summer on Lake Champlain with her family doing just that.  Jeanie attended a one-room schoolhouse, always getting there early on the first day of school to ensure that she had a desk above one of the heating registers, a small comfort during the cold winters when the class would come inside from skiing on the hill behind the school.  She progressed first to Post Mills School then on to Thetford Academy in Thetford, Vermont, where she was a cheerleader, a recognized student leader and class officer, and held the lead in the play “Our Town” as Emily, a role that shaped her understanding of life and death.  Jeanie would repeat Emily’s soliloquy while talking about life, “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?”

From Thetford Academy, Jean received a scholarship to the University of Vermont, which she turned down to have her oldest daughter.  Jean married during a time when women could not even hold a checking account without a husband’s co-signature, but she found ways to ensure her own success and the means to allow her children to thrive.  Mom was a devout Methodist who epitomized the Methodist tenet of do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.  She spent decades heavily involved in the First United Methodist Church in North Attleboro, as a Sunday school teacher, charge conference leader, and in various other roles.  Mom dedicated herself to providing her children with a life centered around family, church, education, health, and the opportunities that she had only read about as a child.  Mom often toiled late into the night after a day of classes or work to hand-make most of our clothing, including fully matching family sets for the holidays, or to make preparations for neighborhood parties with elaborately hand-crafted cakes and games.  Mom lived frugally, using any saved funds to provide her girls with several trips to Europe, partly for fun, but always punctuated with lessons as simple as exposure to the different ways that people live and as profound as showing her girls Anne Frank’s house with a lesson about the consequences of hatred. 

Mom raised three daughters with the motto “Girls Can Do Anything,” memorialized on a sign that hung where we saw it every day.  She never babied us, expecting reliability, responsibility, maturity, and a strong work ethic from internal motivation.  Mom was proud to tell everyone about her three daughters who all obtained the highest degrees available in their traditionally male-dominated fields.  Following in her footsteps of education with purpose are Trisha L. B. Luing, M.D. (Kevin) of Mendham, NJ, a child psychiatrist, Tanya L. Buzzell-Bruno, M.Arch. (David) of Queensbury, NY, an architect with a focus on school and elder community design, and Tasha L. Buzzell, J.D. (Brian Skocypec), an attorney with a focus on families and children.  Mom took us with her on home visits to anyone she heard of who needed someone.  New moms, new widows, shut-ins, the hungry, newly grieving, those having experienced recent traumas, or just someone whom she somehow knew needed someone, we would join her, carrying homemade beef stew, homemade oatmeal bread, and homemade soup, with all the time in the world to sit and listen and maybe do their dishes and some laundry.  Sometimes we would come home from school to find that we had a long-term houseguest such as a new orphan, a widow, or someone displaced by fire.  Somehow Mom knew what was needed and always had it on hand, ready to “Deploy the Jean” whenever she got a call.  Her heart has stopped but continues in us with the reminder to look every day for someone who needs help and be the help they need, for that is how you change the world.  Bloom where you are planted.  And if you don’t feel that you can do it right now, take a nap, a hot bath, and have a cup of tea, then start again. 

Jeanie’s brother Snooky and his wife Cilla had two sons with a rare disease.  Jeanie helped care for these babies until they passed in infancy, then helped her sister Nancy care for her infant son who also passed in infancy from multiple disabilities.  These experiences led Jeanie to a career in nursing.  It took Mom ten years to finish college while raising children and moving throughout the country to follow her then-husband while he was in the military, deployed, and then completed his education, but she did it, taking one or two classes at a time at the University of New Hampshire, then Bridgewater State College, finally graduating from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Cum Laude, in the first RIC nursing class (1974), and as the first person in her family to attend college.  “Nurse Jean,” as she was known, worked at Sturdy Memorial Hospital as a staff nurse and team leader on the Medical-Surgical floors and the ICU floor as a charge nurse, where she contracted staph pneumonia in a poorly cleaned room and spent weeks in her own ICU miraculously recovering.  The illness left her unable to work the floors, so she returned to school.  Her exceptional abilities were remembered by co-workers for years.  One of her supervising physicians cared for her at Sturdy in December of 2023, recognizing her name more than forty years later and remembering fondly her exceptional clinical strengths and kind personality.  Jean then obtained a Master of Science – Nursing from Boston University (MSN/CNS) (1977) with clinical specialization in Developmental Disabilities.  While in this program, she worked in South Providence as an Early Intervention Specialist with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and with other children with varying disabilities at the Meeting Street School in Providence.  Her thesis was based on statistical research examining the role of caregiving fathers with their children with developmental disabilities.  In 1977, she began teaching early prenatal classes at Women and Infants Hospital where she was taught “the pregnant couple” about diet and nutrition, emotional issues, and supporting other children in the family through transition, while also teaching the new birthing class, Lamaze.  In 1978, she began the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Northeastern University, deepening her ability to care for individuals from conception through aging.  It was here that her clinical coordinator, Dr. Peter Simon, later the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Public Health, saw her working at the Family Care Center of Pawtucket, RI, and the Providence Neighborhood Health Centers in Providence, RI, noticed her gift, and hand-selected Nurse Jean to precept her.  While in the FNP program, Nurse Jean also worked and was one of the founding staff members of the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital, now the Hasbro Children’s Hospital Children’s Neurodevelopment Center.  She coordinated team evaluations, the seizure clinic and a parent group for children with seizures, CDC-specific population annual reviews, and the orthopedic clinic.  She and the founding physician ran into each other at RIH about ten years ago and embraced, with that supervising physician also effusively bestowing compliments and memories of her exceptional work and dedication to the families she helped.  Upon completion of the FNP program, Nurse Jean began working as a Nurse Practitioner Clinical Specialist in the pediatric office of Dr. Peter Simon, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where she specialized in maternal-child health and developmental disabilities.  She provided sick and well care and thorough developmental screenings, in addition to speaking with high school students about sexuality, smoking, and drug use.  Nurse Jean also provided health care at facilities for adolescents who were court-involved or homeless including not only physical care but emotional care and health education. In 1982, the pediatric practice grew, with Dr. Simon joining together with Dr. Anthony Amicarelli to form Blackstone Valley Pediatrics in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  In 1991, this practice grew again, and Nurse Jean became a certified lactation consultant, took on night call duties, taught RIC nursing students, Brown University medical students, and medical residents from local hospitals.  She remained in primary care until 1998, when she returned to school and began a program at Boston College in Psychiatric Clinical Nursing to obtain an additional certification (CNS).  While at BC, she provided counseling through agencies in Attleboro.  Although she did not finish the program at BC, she continued in higher education, teaching pathophysiology at Mass. College of Pharmacy’s Graduate Program in Nursing to students in the MSN/NP program.  She also worked at Westwood Lodge in the adolescent partial hospitalization program and in-patient children’s unit, providing nursing evaluations, psycho-social evaluations, individual counseling, and direct therapeutic support.  Nurse Jean finished her formal nursing career in 2000, working for the North Attleboro Public Schools as a one-on-one nurse and medical consultant to develop a service plan for a medically fragile child with an extremely rare genetic disorder.  Nurse Jean treasured the opportunity to help anyone she could, always making a point to wash the feet of the homebound or hospitalized, as taught by her faith.   About her career, Nurse Jean would say, “not bad for a girl from a one-room schoolhouse.”  Helping was her purpose.

            A survivor of cancer and of more than thirty years of intimate partner violence, Jean developed lacunar stroke syndrome secondary to traumatic brain injuries.  As her life changed, she turned to the things she loved: warm breezes, singing birds, her beautiful gardens, listening to good old Methodist hymns, walking her dog, and still helping others.  In her later years, Jean attended day programs, where she said she found her sense of humor again.  Staff at the day centers could even then see her deep clinical knowledge and allowed her to sit in on care plan meetings.  Nurse Jean was able one day to convince staff to re-check a diabetic, and she was right, saving him from the verge of a diabetic coma and possible death.  

            Left to continue her legacy are the babies she loved, Nana’s grandchildren: Sophia Bruno, David (“DT”) Bruno, Heather Luing Garrigan (pregnant with Nana’s first great-grandchild), Courtney Luing, Brett Luing, Kayleigh Luing, Jack Skocypec, Luke Skocypec, and Brody Skocypec.  Nana was The Best Nana.  She was playful and warm, always teaching her grandchildren how to bake unmatched pies, delicious bread, beautiful Easter lamb cakes, and popovers that actually popped, holding fancy tea parties, gifting them with hand-painted floral crafts and furniture, playing endless games of Chinese Checkers (and never being out-moved), singing “Tell Me Why” at bedtime, sharing time over her angel collection and doll collection, yearly Christmas gifts of Angels and Santas, gardening, endless crafts and painting, picnics, a car that smelled of cinnamon gum and a radio that played cassette tapes of bird calls, and giving gentle reminders on walks to see and hear everything around you in nature.  Nana’s face always lit up at the sight of her grandchildren.  A visit to Nana’s was not complete without time on the terrace.  Nana said once that she wanted her grandchildren to know that she may not always remember in her head, but she always remembered in her heart. 

A special acknowledgement is owed to Dr. Iqubal Dhaliwal who, with loving humor and the same exceptional clinical abilities, helped Jean’s family keep her home and comfortable to the very end, available at any time, day or night, for a call on his cell phone.  He, with the support of his staff (Alice, Mary, Kim), cared for her body as much as he cared for our souls and supported our determination to care for her as well as she had cared for everyone else.  Jean’s family extends their deepest appreciation to the network of caregivers who knew Jean, Jeanie, Jean Bean, Jeanie Beanie, Jeanie Weanie, the Jean, and loved her, all of whom became family to her and to us.  She loved and appreciated you all dearly.

In lieu of flowers, please consider giving a plant or making food for someone who needs a dose of healing kindness.  The family will be setting up a scholarship in Jean’s honor and in her maiden name at her alma mater, Thetford Academy, to benefit a female student heading into a four-year Bachelor of Nursing program; checks can be made out to Thetford Academy with “Jean Banker” on the note line and sent to Tasha Buzzell, P.O. Box 683, North Attleboro, MA 02760 to be forwarded to the school. 

A woman of deep religious faith, the last time Mom was in the ocean, blissful with her family, a rainbow appeared overhead.  Mom wanted everyone to celebrate upon her death, for she knew where she was going, to the place where the sun is always shining and the birds are always singing.  A wake will be held at Sperry McHoul Funeral Home on Friday, April 5, 2024 from 4:30-6PM, followed by a Celebration of Life and Sharing at 6PM.  Please come ready to share a memory!  Burial will bring her back to her idyllic home in Thetford Center, Vermont, once the ground thaws, to be buried alongside her extended family on a day when the birds are singing and the sun is shining; please reach out to the family to be notified of the date of burial.  Jean also asked that a later celebration of life be held, with ice cream provided to strangers to brighten their days.  Don’t forget, ice cream fixes everything.  Now, go find someone to help; all you have to do is look.