Obituary: Jean McDonald, 1925-2024 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Jean McDonald, 1925-2024 

Devoted wife, mother and daughter made every holiday special with her decorating and culinary talents

Published February 5, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated February 5, 2024 at 8:18 a.m.

click to enlarge Jean McDonald - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jean McDonald

Jean Ackley McDonald, age 98, left us on January 16, 2024, in Burlington, Vt. Jean is survived by daughters Susan Barden and husband Tom of Hinesburg, Melanie Gay and partner, Tom Hamell, of Williston, and daughter-in-law Priscilla McDonald of St. Albans; eight grandchildren; and 13 great-grands. Jean was predeceased by her parents; sister Barbara Hildebrandt of Chicago; husband, Verne; son, Daniel H. McDonald; and grandson Justin McDonald of Colorado.

Our beloved Jean Shirley was born on December 6, 1925, in Houlton, Maine, to Minerva and Gordon Ackley. She grew up in Smyrna Mills and would always treasure her rural roots in “the County.” Jean made many happy memories there. She and her husband-to-be, Verne “Billy” McDonald, graduated from Merrill High. Billy served in the Marine Corps in World War II. Jean and Billy earned degrees at the University of Maine, where Jean majored in psychology. They were married in 1948.

Billy’s teaching career brought them to Vermont, where they raised three children in Montpelier and South Burlington. Jean was a devoted wife, mom and homemaker who found countless ways to love and nurture her family. She shared her love of the outdoors and knowledge of nature. She was playful and provided hours of fun for her kids and grandkids, whom she cherished. She gave hugs freely, and her lap was always open to little ones. Jean loved music and played the piano. She made every holiday special with her decorating and culinary talents. Some of Jean’s favorite things were Maine, walking on the beach, ice cream, picnics, travel, animals, puzzles, yard sales, and sitting in the sun with friends and family.

Church was important to Jean, and she was active in Methodist churches wherever she lived. She volunteered for Meals on Wheels and the Red Cross Blood Bank and worked at the UMC’s Thrift Shop for 26 years.

Jean was a devoted daughter and helped her parents in their senior years while on visits to Florida. She enjoyed Florida, but Down East Maine was the place that dwelled in her heart. She loved the landscape and “salt-of-the-earth” folks in Addison, Maine, where they spent many happy summers at a cottage, not far from Cutler where her ancestors settled.

After Verne’s death, Jean happily stayed in her Vermont home for 21 years. In later years, family members and Sheena Cota’s presence there made it possible for her to be home as dementia developed. We extend our deep gratitude to all helpers. During Jean’s last four years, she resided at Birchwood Terrace, following a hip fracture. We thank all the staff who cared for Jean, including Bayada Hospice, as well as those who visited during her stay.

We were blessed to have Jean with us for so long but will miss her dearly. A celebration of her life will take place during warmer months. Donations may be made to the Ark Animal Shelter, Cherryfield, Maine.

A more detailed story of Jean’s life may be found at

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