Born on October 7, 1917 in Ashtabula, Ohio, she attended school at Oberlin College in Ohio.
Jean was married to Dirck Joseph Olton for several wonderful years, before he died on January 22, 1997. She arrived in the Capital District in 1950, where her husband became a Manager at Behr Manning (Norton Company).
Jean had a remarkable career spanning some forty years. She was a volunteer, writer, educator, planner, promoter and above all, a tireless advocate for historic preservation.
While raising two sons, Jean was active in community activities in the Troy and Albany areas. She was one of the founders of the Colonie Town Library and the Friends of Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. In 1969, Jean was appointed as the Colonie Town Historian and she soon began the planning of the 75th Anniversary of the naming of the town. In this role, she began collecting and cataloging volumes of items from photographs and newspaper articles to source materials recording events and sites in this area. In 1976, she participated in the Bicentennial and promoted the building of the covered bridge in the town park. Jean focused interest on preserving historic cemeteries and also ruins of the Erie Canal. She attended numerous seminars and meeting of historians across the state, always taking accurate notes and then returning to Colonie with new insights and plans. Perhaps most notable, she compiled the photos and information that became the book entitled “The Town of Colonie, Pictorial History”.
In 1971, through the archeological project at Schuyler Flatts, she joined with others in a decision to form the Historical Society of the Town of Colonie. This group regularly presents programs and lectures to promote awareness of the history of the area. Jean delighted in learning about the community of the Shakers and was one of the founding members of the Shaker Heritage Society. In 1972, she wrote the specifications for the acceptance of the Shaker site on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1983, Jean began a project close to her heart. She proposed a feasibility study and that a committee be appointed to purchase and restore the Pruyn House. The Pruyn House, was a historic privately owned home, located in the town of Colonie. Her hard work paid off and the project was a success. Upon the completion of the restoration, the town historian’s office was moved to the Pruyn House and Jean became the acting director of the House for the next twelve years. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jean and all those involved with this project, have seen this facility develop, grow and thrive as an educational, cultural and social center.
For more than thirty years, Jean was instrumental in preserving and developing Schuyler Flatts as a recreation area with walkways and bicycle paths. It is now maintained for educational exhibits and appreciation of the riverfront. Her dream became a reality in 2002, when Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park was opened.
For those who have worked with and had the pleasure of being in her company, Jean will forever be known for her quiet dignity and composure, her kindness and commitment. She dedicated her life to the preservation of history in her community. Jean also loved spending sunny summer days at their home on Lake George with her family.
Her family would like to thank the staff at Fort Hudson Health Care Facility for the wonderful care, compassion and love given to Jean and her family.
Those left to carry on her memory include her two sons, Marc Barrett Olton and his partner, Donna Miller of Kingsbury and Dirck David Olton and his wife, Carol of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and several nieces and nephews.
A Memorial Service to celebrate Jean’s life will be held at a later date at Pruyn House, 207 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham, NY 12110.
Burial will be at Memory Gardens, 983 Watervliet Shaker Road, Albany.
Arrangements are under the care of the Carleton Funeral Home, Inc., 68 Main Street, Hudson Falls.