SALEM — Jean Marie (Blaikie) Rochna-Caron, Pioneer in Women’s Politics in Salem, Mass., passed away on October 17 at Mass General Hospital in Boston.
Jean Marie was the loving wife of the late Henry L. Caron who predeceased her September 20, 2013, and the late Albin A. “Rock” Rochna who predeceased her December 8, 1986. Born and raised in Newburyport, Mass., she was the daughter of the late Veronica E. (Archie) and George A. Blaikie. Jean Marie was a graduate of Immaculate Conception Grammar School (1948) and High School, Class of 1952. She also attended Salem State College and studied classes in political science.
She moved to Salem in 1956 when she married “Rock” and that is where they made their home and raised their seven children. She was a devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and was lovingly called, "Babczi."
Jean Marie was the first woman elected city-wide to the Salem City Council as a Councillor-at-Large. She served in that capacity from 1976 to 1985. She was also the first woman to chair the Finance Committee, and run for the office of Mayor (1980) and served as Council President in 1984. She stepped down from her Council Seat in 1985 at which time she was appointed Executive Director of the Salem Council on Aging. She served in that position from 1985 until she retired in 1998.
She became known as the "Champion of the Seniors." She was loved and respected for all her efforts on their behalf including being the driving force of moving them from a church basement to their own Senior Center at 5 Broad Street. It was her order to the Council that gave the seniors their own “home” that expanded services to what they are today.
When she retired, her council peers presented a city order and voted unanimously that at least a room be named in her honor either in a new center or the renovated one.
She was very proud of her Polish heritage and was deeply involved with the Polish Community and organized the first Polish Festival in Salem.
She was recognized in September 1977 with a Testimonial in her honor for her dedication, and all the achievements she accomplished as Salem’s first Woman Councillor-at-Large.
She was awarded numerous honors city, state, and federal wide during her tenure in public life and was a member of, and held office in, many professional and charitable organizations.
In 2004, she moved to Naples, Fla., with husband, Henry who she married in 1998.
She is survived by her seven children and their families, Kim and David Buttolph of New Canaan, Conn., Candis and Scott Bolden of Peabody, Roxanne Rochna, Leif Rochna and Janna Flynn of Danvers, Heidi Rochna and Joel Moulton of Beverly, Lance, Rhett and Pam Rochna of Salem; and a sister, Barbara Blaikie of Newburyport.
She is also survived by her grandchildren, Courtni and Ryan Laracy, Tristan and Laurel Bolden, Amanda Buttolph, Kristen Buttolph, Dustin Valido, Jeannette Bolden, Blake Rochna, Chase Rochna, Jordan Lee Rochna; step-grandson, Weston Moulton; and great-grandchildren, Grace Bolden, Jack Laracy.
She is also survived by two step-sons, Kurt and Eric Caron of Salem.
ARRANGEMENTS: At Jean Marie’s request, a celebration of her life will be held at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem on Saturday, November 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to MGH Cancer Research, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114. For online condolences, visit the Full-Spychalski Funeral Home web site at www.SalemFuneral.com.