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A Remembrance...

JEANETTE ALESSIO-WAY

Cultural Historian/ Motivational Speaker


MARCH 14, 1941 - JANUARY 23, 2020

You knew her as The History Lady, but those of us from her early years would call her Jet, Jiji, or even Fernette. I called her Sis. We started out in what was then the small community of North Park, with friends of every nationality. Our neighborhood set the stage for a rich upbringing.

Sis started working for the Hotel Del Coronado in 1960 when she was twenty. She planned special events, developed activities for children, and helped in public relations. She loved this position. Her favorite person at the hotel was an elderly Mrs. Jones who resided at the hotel. She would go out of her way to assist Mrs. Jones so she could listen to her talk about what it was like to grow up in the 1890s. This was the beginning of her affection form seniors and her respect for the important stories they have to tell.

Jeanette went on to work at a travel agency, eventually opening her own. Her travels took her to over 17 different countries. She always bought something, building her collection of exotic items and antiques. She gathered many interesting tales from these journeys, which would later show up in her presentations. Our mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and we eventually moved her into managed care. It was here that The History Lady was born, as Jeanette started bringing in objects to spark memories and engage Mom and other residents in discussion.

Sis loved doing this and the seeing the lively response she could bring. When she decided to make these presentations her business, she started with a few sites and a few attendees, eventually expanding to over 100 programs a month. There were times when she would give five programs in one day almost all at different facilities! Awards and community recognition followed, like the Channel 10 Leadership Award and the Outstanding Small Business of the Year Award, among many others.

Besides managed care facilities, she would go to schools, libraries, homeless shelters, special group events, and also conferences where she could promote her programs – lugging numerous antiques and cultural memorabilia with her everywhere. Jeanette's dynamic interactive presentations proved to be very effective in stimulating minds and making history come alive for young and old. In recent years Jeanette's associate Gary Johnson had been helping with her programs, especially during her eight-month recovery from hip surgery. Now known as 'Gary The History Guy', he continues her legacy.

I've watched my sister's presentations often over the years and saw first-hand people being deeply touched by a particular story or object, and how she made you laugh or challenged you with thought provoking questions. The History Lady made history relevant to the present. Her audience walked away a little wiser, a bit more connected to their roots. I know it was an hour spent with a lady who cared deeply about all of you.

In return, my thanks to you for enriching my sister's life, Nick... The History Lady's brother


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