TRIBUTE TO JEAN HEWITT

Although I’ve enjoyed my time here in Antigua so far, my visit has been tinged with great sadness at the news on Saturday that my beautiful friend Jean Hewitt had died.  She joins the lengthening list of phenomenal women that I’ve loved and lost this year.

How ironic that she should die on a Saturday morning, as Saturday was always ‘Dancing Day’ for so many, many children, my own daughter included, for so many years.

And  ‘beautiful’ is a word that applies to Jean like few other people because she was a beautiful person outside and in,

She was a beauty with panache and glamour; real show biz, always immaculately dressed, with her amazing platinum blonde hair – not many women over 60 could have got away with that! – but never ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, Never!  And this spilled over into her work.  With her flair and keen stage-eye she put on dance routines that were worthy of the West End.  Her shows had casts of hundreds, with dozens of back-stage helpers, too, and she commandeered the whole event like a general leading from the front.  Her voice was soft and gentle – I don’t think I ever heard her raise it, certainly never in class or at a student – and she had the ability to make you think you’d won a prize even when she wanted you to do something.  I remember once hearing my name called at Marshall’s Park during panto along with four or five others.  We all rushed forward, because, as I say, we thought we’d won a prize, only to be told some 200 chairs needed moving.  Yet we all jumped to and did it, because Jean had asked us to and she’d asked us so nicely we didn’t even think about it!

When I first went to Jean’s house – to give her daughter Suzanne a Spanish lesson – arriving early, I thought I’d got the night wrong and that I’d walked in on a dinner party only to be told that Jean cooked dinner for 9 or 10 people every night!  Her house was a refuge for so many people, myself included.  And it was Jean who was responsible for me teaching drama, trusting me with the drama department of her school when I was only an enthusiastic amateur.  Chatting to her over coffee one morning I said I’d loved drama as a young person and would have loved to have been an actress.  Within two weeks she rang me to say my class was up and running!  But with her support and backing and encouragement, I went on to qualify and we built the drama section of the school up to over 150 students at the height of our success and I have some lovely memories of the students and the productions we did, always rising to the challenge of making them ‘vicar-proof’. Jean didn’t care that censorship had gone out in 1968, we had to produce ‘family shows’!.

But Jean also had an inner-beauty found in few other people.  She was non-judgemental, gentle, patient and kind.  A devout Christian, she practised her religion in her daily life and always took the Christian, compassionate pathway.  She was a true Christian; the most-Christian person I’ve ever known.

Her professional worth was continually recognised during her lifetime with various awards and her dance troupes appearing in prestigious shows and venues.  They were always a credit to her because everyone wanted to do well for Jean and never let her down; she was that kind of person.

Jean was so many things to so many people.  To me she was a shining example of how to be a great teacher, but she was, above all, my friend.  For many years the two of us would go out and see a show every July to celebrate her birthday.  She even once took my daughter ‘on holiday’ to Romford while I had a quick week away in Greece.  I came back to find that Melanie was now ‘Miss Boot’!  Jean always gave a nickname to everyone.  (Meli – welly –boot!!)

And now she’s gone, a light has dimmed in all the lives that she touched.  Heaven has gained its best dance teacher ever and its loveliest person.  Because if ever a person’s place in Heaven was assured it was Jean Hewitt.

RIP, Lovely Lady.

Although I’ve enjoyed my time here in Antigua so far, my visit has been tinged with great sadness at the news on Saturday that my beautiful friend Jean Hewitt had died.

How ironic that she should die on a Saturday morning, as Saturday was always ‘Dancing Day’ for so many, many children, my own daughter included, for so many years.

And  ‘beautiful’ is a word that applies to Jean like few other people because she was a beautiful person outside and in,

She was a beauty with panache and glamour; real show biz, always immaculately dressed, with her amazing platinum blonde hair – not many women over 60 could have got away with that! – but never ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, Never!  And this spilled over into her work.  With her flair and keen stage-eye she put on dance routines that were worthy of the West End.  Her shows had casts of hundreds, with dozens of back-stage helpers, too, and she commandeered the whole event like a general leading from the front.  Her voice was soft and gentle – I don’t think I ever heard her raise it, certainly never in class or at a student – and she had the ability to make you think you’d won a prize even when she wanted you to do something.  I remember once hearing my name called at Marshall’s Park during panto along with four or five others.  We all rushed forward, because, as I say, we thought we’d won a prize, only to be told some 200 chairs needed moving.  Yet we all jumped to and did it, because Jean had asked us to and she’d asked us so nicely we didn’t even think about it!

When I first went to Jean’s house – to give her daughter Suzanne a Spanish lesson – arriving early, I thought I’d got the night wrong and that I’d walked in on a dinner party only to be told that Jean cooked dinner for 9 or 10 people every night!  Her house was a refuge for so many people, myself included.  And it was Jean who was responsible for me teaching drama, trusting me with the drama department of her school when I was only an enthusiastic amateur.  Chatting to her over coffee one morning I said I’d loved drama as a young person and would have loved to have been an actress.  Within two weeks she rang me to say my class was up and running!  But with her support and backing and encouragement, I went on to qualify and we built the drama section of the school up to over 150 students at the height of our success and I have some lovely memories of the students and the productions we did, always rising to the challenge of making them ‘vicar-proof’. Jean didn’t care that censorship had gone out in 1968, we had to produce ‘family shows’!.

But Jean also had an inner-beauty found in few other people.  She was non-judgemental, gentle, patient and kind.  A devout Christian, she practised her religion in her daily life and always took the Christian, compassionate pathway.  She was a true Christian; the most-Christian person I’ve ever known.

Her professional worth was continually recognised during her lifetime with various awards and her dance troupes appearing in prestigious shows and venues.  They were always a credit to her because everyone wanted to do well for Jean and never let her down; she was that kind of person.

Jean was so many things to so many people.  To me she was a shining example of how to be a great teacher, but she was, above all, my friend.  For many years the two of us would go out and see a show every July to celebrate her birthday.  She even once took my daughter ‘on holiday’ to Romford while I had a quick week away in Greece. “We all need a little break, dear,” she said.  I came back to find that Melanie was now ‘Miss Boot’!  Jean always gave a nickname to everyone.  (Meli – welly –boot!!)  And the last time I saw Jean, as frail as she was, she asked after Miss Boot.

And now she’s gone, a light has dimmed in all the lives that she touched.  Heaven has gained its best dance teacher ever and its loveliest person.  Because if ever a person’s place in Heaven was assured it was Jean Hewitt’s.

RIP, Lovely Lady.

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9 thoughts on “TRIBUTE TO JEAN HEWITT

  1. What a wonderful tribute. I had exactly the same thought about the news being on a Saturday. All my childhood Saturdays were dancing days, and they still are thanks to Jean and her inspiration. Her kindness and patience inspires the way I teach. She was an amazing person and will be missed and always remembered with love and gratitude. I feel blessed to have known her.

  2. Such a fitting tribute to a beautiful lady, she really was my Saturday mum, years spent at Trinity then Marshalls and London Road. Truly saddened yet so full of happy memories xxxx

  3. A beautiful, warm, caring lady who will live on within the hearts of all those who had the pleasure to have Jean in their life..Everyone was treated as an equal I for one can say Jean pushed me to the best of my ability & believed I could perform alongside able bodied dancers/actors, this we proved with the many professional shows I performed in & modelling jobs Jean put me forward for!! I will never forget all Jean did for our ‘Just Us’ opportunity knocks audition, giving up her spare time to help us practice. Truly one in a million The legend Jean Hewitt xx God Bless xx

  4. Jean taught my sister Jenny and I to dance in the late 70,s I did modern dancing and loved the pantomimes we did and all the costumes..
    She put me forward for a colgate advert i think it was for blue minty gel! but my teeth were not the best!I remember she was a lovely woman and I remember the classes were at a church hall I think St Johns ,the lessons still went ahead after a fire had damaged some of it once. Also the parquet floor had a knack of leaving splinters in your backside!!
    Happy memories xxx

  5. Some years ago, I took one of my grand-daughters to see a show by HPA at the Queen’s Theatre. At the end, I was invited onto the stage, as I was one of Jean Scotton’s first pupils, in her class that was upstairs a pub, in the East End! She was a most wonderful and inspirational teacher, and it was with enormous pride that I wore my black dress, with white peter pan collar, white gloves and tap shoes. Not forgetting our star badge, with SDA – Scotton’s Dancing Academy. Bless you and thank you Jean – may your dear sweet soul rest in peace. xxx

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