Jean Wesley was 7 months old when her mother died. Now almost 80 years later, you can help Jean fulfill her odyssey of visiting her mother’s grave site.
Jean was born out of wedlock in Metropolitan Hospital in New York City on September 4, 1938. Her mother, Agatha Jeffers, died when Jean was 7 months old.
Within a few days of her mom’s death, orphaned Jean was committed to the City of New York Department of Welfare. She was in foster care for about two-and-a-half years before being sent to Bellevue Hospital in 1941. For the next 45 years, Jean lived in many places, including large institutions for people with developmental disabilities.
In 1987, Jean and her future husband, Henry Wesley (himself an orphan who spent many years living in institutions), relocated across New York State and moved into a home operated by The Resource Center, a not-for-profit organization in Chautauqua County that supports people with disabilities. Jean and Henry have had wonderful lives over the past 31 years, enjoying opportunities that would have seemed unimaginable during the decades that they lived in institutions. The couple (who began dating 45 years ago) married in 1994, and they will celebrate their 25th anniversary next year.
Over the years, Jean often wondered about her family, especially her mother. Last year, with aid from her self-determination assistant, Britnie Barmore, Jean was able to learn some of her family history. They discovered that Jean’s mother, Agatha, had been born in the British West Indies and was 34 years old when she died. And after spending many hours searching ancestry and family history web sites, Jean and Britnie learned that Agatha is buried in a cemetery in New York City.
Jean will turn 80 later this year. After having no knowledge of her family for all of these years, Jean has a strong desire to visit her mother’s grave now that she’s found where her mom is buried. “It is very important to do this, since it will provide closure and understanding for her,” Britnie said.
The trip is scheduled for this spring. Jean and Henry (accompanied by Britnie and another support staff) plan to make the seven-hour drive from Jamestown to New York City on Thursday, April 12, then drive home the next day. In addition to visiting Agatha’s grave, Jeanne and Henry hope to do some sightseeing while they’re in the Big Apple.
The estimated cost of the two-day trip is $1,200. The Mark Pacheco WOW (Working on Wonders) Fund has pledged $700 toward the cost of the journey. The WOW Fund, an initiative of The Resource Center and the Filling the Gap organization, provides money to make dreams come true for people with developmental disabilities. With the contribution from the WOW Fund, that leaves $500 to be raised to cover the cost of the trip.
Please help Jean fulfill her goal of visiting her mother’s grave. No donation is too small. Thank you in advance for your support.