Jeanne Marie (Cook) DeGiacomo, formerly of Cohasset, passed away on September 1, 2020 surrounded by her family. Jeanne Marie was born in Ohio on January 4, 1927 and was one of four children of Blake Cook and Bessie (Adams) Cook. She graduated from Kent State University at the top of her class with a degree in communications and speech. She was proficient in debating and oratory and was selected by Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. After college, she joined the United States Department of State and served as a foreign service diplomat in post-war Japan during its reconstruction. In addition to assisting with the building of the staff for the new United States Embassy, she also helped write speeches for the new United States ambassador to Japan. At a reception in Tokyo, after attending Mass on a Sunday morning, she met James R. DeGiacomo, a Marine lieutenant training for service in Korea. They became engaged while she was still serving in Japan and were married in 1954. They moved to Washington D.C. where James attended Georgetown Law Center and Jeanne Marie continued working at the State Department. In 1958, they moved to Cohasset where they raised their four children. Jeanne Marie obtained her Master’s Degree with honors in public administration from Northeastern University and worked at the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Action for Boston Community Development leading public health initiatives, including the prevention of lead paint poisoning and osteoporosis. She and James moved to Boston in 1980 where they lived until relocating to Lenox in 2018. Jeanne Marie was always politically active and had strong passion for travel and promoting global understanding. She is survived by her beloved husband James with whom she celebrated their 66th anniversary last December and her four children Mark and his wife Lynne of Cohasset, Diane and her husband Jack Poore of Lenox, Paul and his partner Montasser Kamal of Ontario, Canada and Andrew of Stuyvesant, New York; her four grandchildren Jimmy DeGiacomo and his wife Vienna of Cohasset, Emma Poore and her partner Brian Bartlett of Pittsfield, Samuel DeGiacomo of Lakeville, Connecticut and Blake Poore and his wife Bridget of Pittsfield; and her great grandchildren Dominic and Nate.
At this difficult time, Funeral services and interment will be private. Please, visit Jeanne’s tribute page at www.mcnamara-sparrell.com to share a remembrance or condolence with the family. Donations in Jeanne Marie's memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders USA, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030.
Please continue to read this wonderful article about Jeanne:
Jeanne comes from a family of successful lawyers elected to judgeships in Ohio, where she was making her own mark at Kent State University in a communications and speech major, proficient in Debating and Oratory. Selected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and recognized as a leader on campus, she graduated at the top of her class only to challenge herself further by applying for a prestigious national competition to be an intern trained in Foreign Service by the U. S. Department of State. Most interns were men in those days, but our Jeanne succeeded. Including her internship year she served seven or eight more years professionally as a foreign service diplomat assigned to several significant projects beginning with Japan.
At the end of the Occupation of Japan and General MacArthur’s reorganization mission, the Reconstruction began, including repair to our embassy property and relationships. Jeanne was assigned to help with all of these but at that moment she was feverish battling the flu with a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit. She wondered if she should wait but was told that she was needed immediately and she must go. She was booked in first class so she could recline and sleep on a flight that took her by the demobilization efforts on Wake Island to Japan. On landing in Japan, still feverish, she recounts how she was picked up at the airport by embassy people asking, “What are we to do?” “Didn’t they tell you what we are to do?”
She was well and truly in at the beginning of the Reconstruction of Japan at a very young age. She recalls that they had to be housed in school dormitories while the embassy was being built and how she worked with a staff of Japanese women who shared their war experiences, including tales from the wives of Kamikaze pilots. After the war, these Japanese women had worked together on the Occupation and now with Jeanne for the Reconstruction. This was an immersion in true diplomacy.
During the three years that Jeanne was in Japan she not only helped with the rebuilding and staffing of the embassy but with the Fulbright Commission which was tasked with setting up the Fulbright Exchange Programs for students and teachers. As it was initially conceived, the Fulbright program was a leadership exchange between the two countries with, at first, a local selection committee made up of Japanese leaders who eventually had to relinquish control to the official commission made up of both countries. Jeanne once again needed a full measure of diplomacy and was up to the task. When the ambassador to Japan arrived she helped him with his speeches that detailed the delicate evolution of this important new student program.
Jeanne Marie Cook met James R. DeGiacomo one Sunday on her way to Mass at one of the newly formed church groups founded during the Reconstruction of Japan. Jim was on his way to Mass as well. He was a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan, training for service in Korea. I believe he was a 2nd Lieutenant at the time having recently graduated from Boston College. They became engaged in Japan from where he also sent off his application for law school in Washington, DC. They were married some months later in her hometown in Ohio and together moved to Washington. He studied law and Jeanne continued to work for the State Department, notably, on two more Truman Administration initiatives.
Jeanne was in at the beginning of an organized effort at cultural exchange between countries in order to demonstrate to the world that “we are not only a great military but also a people of culture.” It was commonly thought that the U.S. was a country of cowboys and, of course, Russia has culture; they have the ballet and great composers and musicians. Truman wanted to show that we also have cultural resources and gifts. She would go to meetings in New York City to work with the committee that chose the artists to represent us. She enjoyed working with artists and entertainers on this committee and recalls Myna Loy being an active member. While she clerked for this committee she says we sent abroad such artists and performances as the Boston Symphony and “Porgy and Bess.”
The Employee Exchange Program was another important exchange program that she helped manage; it came out of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, popularly known as the Hoover Commission. It took its nickname from former President Herbert Hoover, who was appointed by President Truman to chair it. Jeanne helped with the first group of exchanges that brought to the U.S. embassy staff from foreign countries; these embassy employees were usually local to the country in which they served. The goal was to share with them the American culture and experience so that they would know more about us. Jeanne also advised on how to get the Voice of America appropriate to the country to which it was broadcast. Once, she was summoned to the White House to provide the correct pronunciation of the names of the folks in her first foreign embassy exchange group; President Truman was greeting each one with the Secretary of State introducing them to him. Since she had control of the list for this group and had planned their American experience traveling around the country, she was the only one who knew them by name and face. She met President Truman at this time when he thanked her for her help with the receiving line protocol.
She and her family moved to Boston after Jim graduated from Georgetown. She has enjoyed all Boston has to offer and is happy with her life here. But she acknowledges, “life in Washington when I was working with the State Department was very interesting.”
However, she maintains that her work in Boston is probably more important than the foreign service assignments in the long run. She has managed to work in jobs, both paid and volunteer, that sound more like a “calling” than a profession. Every job has the public good as its focus.
Between 1976 and 1980 Jeanne successfully managed an assignment in a state agency under pressure from an ongoing Federal class action lawsuit with threat of penalties if compliance was not achieved. The complaint involved the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment mandate, commonly known as EPSDT, which is the child health component of Medicaid. Massachusetts was not in compliance. Jeanne was hired to try to implement a program to address this complaint. As Director of Project Good Health and Coordinator of Field Operations for the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare, Jeanne worked with the training staff whose mission was to train the social workers in how to implement the program effectively, how to reach and enroll all those eligible. The goal was to promote regular preventative health care for all children eligible for Medicaid. Eventually, it was felt that they were meeting their obligations and the penalty was avoided.
And with that she began part-time work with the Department of Public Health and the Action for Boston Community Development, otherwise known as ABCD. She worked with all neighborhoods of Boston organizing programs around health care issues specific to the needs of each community, especially the elderly. Jeanne affirms her most important role has been to work as a volunteer on the Governor’s Legislative Commission on Prevention of Lead Poisoning; at times, chairing it. She takes great pride in the work of this legislative commission that put Massachusetts out in front dealing with this critical health issue. She credits Governor Dukakis with keen interest for the work of this commission.
In 1986 the Governor’s Office honored Jeanne with their Volunteer of the Year Award for her work on this project.
Her last job was with the Department of Public Health as Osteoporosis Coordinator working on educational campaigns to provide information to health professionals as well as all women, young and old, who are at risk.
Along the way, Jeanne found time to get a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Northeastern University in 1981 and to take pride in her active family of three sons and a daughter and, of course, her lawyer husband, Jim, who she says is also a very good cook.
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