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Jeanne Hitt Chalaire, 85, Sea Cliff educator

Jeanne Hitt Chalaire, who taught and operated the Village Preschool in Sea Cliff for 25 years, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease on July 15 in Hilo, Hawaii, where she lived. She was 85.

Chalaire, who taught at the preschool she opened in 1970, was revered in the Sea Cliff community, touching the lives of countless children, said her daughter, Deirdre Chalaire Humphrey, 60, of Orient.

"She was an incredible advocate for children," Humphrey said. "She felt that children needed to be listened to, that they were very important and that they needed to learn by doing."

Chalaire, born Norma Jeanne Hitt on May 1, 1925 in Columbus, Ohio, grew up in Westerville, Ohio, with her parents and three siblings. After taking fashion design and advertising classes in Detroit in the early 1940s, Chalaire moved to New York to work as a fashion advertising illustrator in 1945.

There she met Walter Chalaire, a recently returned Naval veteran of World War II turned New York City real estate appraiser, whom she married a year later. The couple took up roots in Long Island, living in Great Neck, where both of their daughters were born, Manhasset, Glen Head and Sea Cliff.

In 1955, Chalaire began working as an assistant for Dr. N. Lael Telfeyan in Great Neck, where she remained until 1970. After purchasing the preschool, Chalaire remained devoted to her schoolchildren until her retirement in 1995, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

When she was not doting on her preschoolers, Chalaire participated in musical productions and sang at the Brookville Reform Church in Glen Head.

"She was an icon in the community," Humphrey said.

Humphrey remembered her mother as an incredible cook, who developed her own recipes without the help of a cookbook, even after long days spent working. Chalaire's legacy lives on through her famous Christmas cookies and the baking tradition she passed down to her grandchildren.

For the past 15 years, Chalaire relocated to Hawaii to live closer to her daughter, Darien Chalaire Morris, 63, with whom she resided for a year before entering a care home.

Besides her daughters, Chalaire is survived by her son-in-law Lyle Morris of Keaau, Hawaii, her brother, William Hitt, 79, of Columbus, Ohio, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Puna Congregational Church in Keaau, Hawaii. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Chalaire's name be made to the Alzheimer's Association of Hilo, 1055 Kinoole St., Suite 103, Hilo, Hawaii 96720.


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