Here’s To Friendship: In Memoriam Jean Tracy Forman- Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Jean Tracy (Forman) was born in Pennsylvania in 1942 but her family, her mother and father and two much older sisters, Helene and Eleanore, and a younger brother, Tommy, moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was a toddler so her Dad, Tom, could work in the Shipyards. They lived on Troy Avenue near Dean street right near PS 83 until Jean was in Junior High School 210, then they moved to Bedford Avenue-a big step up in housing. Jean and I were close friends from the second grade through High School and into young adulthood before our paths diverged. She married the maybe 7 year older Joseph Terdoslavich shortly before her graduation from Prospect Heights High School and had four sons, Vinnie, Joey, Daniel and later, Jamie. She would also divorce and marry Frank Forman and have a lovely and beloved daughter, Diana.
While there were problems to face, Jean was in love with all of her children and tried hard to be a good young mother. I dearly remember Vinnie and Joey as precocious and very cute preschoolers. Daniel had Downs Syndrome and had to be placed in Willowbrook State School where Jean visited regularly always. This was very hard on her. Through marriage and remarriage and marriage again, Jean sought and gave love especially when she found her “soul-mate” Lee Wilson, who could not stay in one place. She was a woman who was honest and true to herself and the choices she made were never easy, but she followed her own star and made them. And she loved all of her family and friends with all her heart.
Friendship is a most special relationship and, wonder-fully, it can be formed in childhood and be life-long. Jean Tracy and I first met when we were 7 years old in the second grade in PS 83 in Brooklyn, New York. Maybe Miss Rothstein lined us up by height and Jean and I were both short though I was a little taller. Or maybe we both sensed gentle, bright, souls that loved easily and loved art work, animals and trees. Whatever it was, we “clicked”. While we walked home in different directions, soon Jean accompanied me home for lunch and after school and my Grandma would give her big hugs and make her favorite meals if she could. Jean did not like oatmeal but sometimes that is what we had as it was available. It did not matter as we soon were playing with our paper Indians on the floor or climbing the “trees that grew in Brooklyn”, the trees of Heaven, (Ailanthus Altissima) that grew tall, smelled almost like peanut butter, and bent in the wind. On holidays like the 4th of July my mother would take both of us to Coney Island where we played in the sea and had fun in both the Steeple Chase Pool and Amusement Park and even in the bath house where we would run and hide from my mother, who was amazingly patient with us.
I was an only child and Jean’s sisters were much older. We became like sisters. We did everything together and had such fun, laughing all the time. In Junior High 210 we were no longer in the same classes but were forbidden from sitting near each other in Assemblies as we would laugh at almost anything and disrupt the Assembly. As we loved Native American culture, history, and crafts, we also researched and did a presentation on Navajo Indians together for our respective Social Studies Classes.
By the Fifth grade we were inseparable and still in the same class. We loved our teacher, Mr. Chisari, but he was not tolerant of her mischievous “cutting up” while I liked the laughter it caused. We explored the whole neighborhood looking for trees to climb, or animals, especially kittens, to rescue. We did save some from an apartment house basement, and one was missing an eye. I kept him for both of us and we shared Tiny Tim. She had a dog but was not allowed a cat. We loved playing in the snow with my dog, Brownie, pulling us on the sled. When there was major excavation to build the St. John’s Park and Recreation Center there were mountains to climb. This was inner-city Brooklyn, and we were mountain climbers! When the park was completed, we played softball there with the boys. We were proud to be chosen for teams. Jean was a great hitter. I could pitch. We roller skated in the streets, but safely in the park as well. We loved growing up and being “tom-boys” in our working class and very diverse Brooklyn neighborhood and made other friends to join us in our adventures. But, mostly, we explored our world together and loved every minute of it.
When Jean was thirteen or so she matured quickly. I less so. We grew apart some as she moved to Bedford Ave. which was a long walk away and she discovered boys, not as buddies but as objects of her affections. There was a part of her life I did not yet understand and it increasingly demanded her time and energy. So we continued to be friends through High School, but hung out in different groups. I was also active in my church youth group and she liked coming to events but was not allowed to come on a Sunday night. My close friends were then in that youth group. So our paths diverged but did not part. By sixteen she dropped out of High School and was married and a mother at seventeen. I was going steady with the church organist, and former youth group President at 17 in my first year of college and I married at 20. John and I would visit her and her family and she was the Matron-of-Honor at our wedding. We still felt like sisters. But after a few years she moved to Long Island and we lost track of each other.
We often thought of one another, but it was not until this age of technology that her niece helped her to go on Classmates.com and she found that we were searching for each other. About five years ago, with both of us in our 70’s she called me and we were happily reunited here in Florida. Miracle of miracles, she too had lived in Fort Myers, and was now only an hour and a half away in Sarasota. We picked up our friendship as if we had only been separated for a few days not over almost fifty years. We visited each other and called frequently and enjoyed each minute of our reunion. We were both so thankful for this re-union.
Jean had completed her GED and later went to Edison College in Fort Myers (now FSW University) to complete her Nursing Degree. This was a major achievement in her busy life and she loved working as a Nurse in the mental hospital here in Fort Myers, When it closed she went to work in jails and prisons. She had such empathy for those who got into trouble and those who were outcast or different. When I met her again five years ago, she had been sober for well over thirty years and still active in AA, offering herself to help others. She truly lived the Gospel, to feed the hungry and visit those who were sick or in prison both professionally and in her every day life. She was accepting of all people and loved by many. She continued her love for animals and took in an older dog whose owner died that the family asked me to place, and also a kitty that I rescued. Below she is with her beloved little dog Cricket. Truly Jean had a heart of gold, and she lived the Golden Rule.
The Memorial Service Saturday June 26, 2021
Jean left this life on May 22, 2021 of an apparent heart-attack as she was swimming at a Cape Coral Beach with her date Sam, a friend of her niece, Laura. Jean embraced life fully until the end. While she had some of the ills of older years, she would not let them slow her down. While her sudden departure was a shock to all who love her, myself included, her daughter Diana expressed it well: she died doing what she liked doing, being in nature and on a date. But oh, the difference to us who remain. I was talking to her friend Donna from Brooklyn and Fort Myers, who expects to hear her voice on the phone, and I do too. We will hear it in our hearts now. And we will miss her always.
I spent my life as a social worker, social work educator and later, since 2008, as a Roman Catholic woman priest and pastor of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. ( There are about 300 in our RCWP International Movement and over 200 validly but illicitly ordained women priests world wide). Jean attended church with us at Good Shepherd before Covid 19 and also we had Holy Communion together when visiting my beach timeshare condo and at my home. Jean shared her struggles with “religion” and Christianity with me and also we spoke at length of forgiveness to be given and received. She was working on forgiveness and seeking and, yes, she thought, finding a loving God in Christ once again before she died. Maybe in God’s provision that is one of the reasons we found each other again. The other was that our friendship would continue to bring much love and understanding into our lives at a time when it was most needed. Our reunion was such a source of joy for both of us.
I presided at her Memorial Service at the large and beautiful home of her daughter Diana Friedman and it was attended by maybe forty people who loved her from various parts of her life. In the last year and a half Jean lived with her beloved pets in a smaller house on her daughter’s property and she so enjoyed seeing Diana and her family every day. This was such a blessing to her that it was right that the Memorial Service and Interment should be there where she loved and found love. Family members and friends read Scripture readings from Genesis, where God asks us to be responsible for God’s creation including the animals, Jean’s gift always; From Isaiah where God promised to wipe every tear from our eyes; from I Corinthians 13 where love like Jean loved is described; and the Prayer of St. Francis. The Gospel acclamation was “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it is only a tiny hard seed, but when it dies it produces much fruit”, and the Gospel was Matthew 25 where we are told to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison and when we do it is as if we did this to Christ, to our loving God. Indeed my homily was to show how Jean lived these Scriptures and fulfilled this Gospel with her life. And this was easy to do.
Then many members of Jean’s family and friends came forth and shared their love for her. Two highlights were when her beloved grand daughter, Hannah Friedman sang an old song “La Vie En Rose” that she and Jean had worked on together. Hannah’s love for Jean was overflowing. And little Tyler, her great grandson also told moving and funny stories about his dear Grandma. The pictures below are some of those who read and spoke. And here, I note that it was not easy for me to preside at my beloved friend’s funeral. I thank her family for having me do this, and I thank my friend, Carol Schauf for accompanying me and assisting me in this. I also thank her for the pictures as she truly captured the day.
Farewell our beloved Jean, we will see you on the other side where you live in love and joy with God forever.
with love and blessings to all her dear family and friends,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida