By Rosemary Rimkus, Hudson Chronicler
HUDSON – The legacy of beloved dance and gym teacher Jean Beddow-Arnth will live on in the memories of at least two generations of alumni.
“Miss Jean,” as her ballet and gymnastics students affectionately called her, passed away on September 27 at the age of 96. She was actively engaged in teaching both arts until her retirement in 2009 at the age of 85.
Of British origin, the professional dancer and gymnast arrived in Hudson in 1953 and quickly opened “Miss Jean’s School of Dance”. It was his June recitals that introduced generations of Hudson’s children to dance, music and theater.
Former student Leah Lamson remembers Miss Jean’s first studio in a small space on Apsley Street before she later moved to “a fancy place on Felton Street”.
“Her end-of-year dance recitals at Hudson Town Hall in June were legendary, and her decent manners, English accent and red hair made a strong impression on aspiring ballerinas of all ages,” said Lamson said. “Although she never married and never had children, she has had hundreds of children and treated them all with love and kindness.”
Former student and business partner Linda LeSage said her child-themed productions, which focused on everything from Disney to Broadway musicals, showed Miss Jean’s “show business” flair.
She noted that the printed programs of the shows remain valuable to alumni.
Denise Houseman of Manchester, NH, remembers starting ballet lessons with Miss Jean at the age of seven, continuing through high school, then teaching gymnastics at Miss Jean School .
Houseman has since continued her athletic career at the Scottish Highland Games, where she is an eight-time world champion. She is also a gymnastics teacher at the YMCA Manchester.
Starting as a four-year-old ballet student, Sandra (Ferreira) Rossi from Marlborough said of Miss Jean: “She always praised you, making you feel so wonderful.”
Rossi continued as a student and teacher for over 30 years.
“Miss Jean was a real icon in the community,” said Nikki (Young) Banfield of Shrewsbury, who started taking dance lessons at the age of two and continued to be a gymnastics teacher at the school. Miss Jean.
“She was a real role model,” she said.
Jean’s gymnastics school moved to Marlborough in 1986. There Miss Jean continued to teach until she sold the school and retired in 2009, 56 years after founding it. The school continues to bear his name.
A child of World War II in England, Miss Jean often remembered performing with her acrobatic troupe at the London Palladium in 1947 for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, a highlight of her young life.
Miss Jean became a citizen of her adopted country many years ago. But in keeping with her British heritage, she continued to enjoy her ‘cup of tea and cookies’, as well as the beauty of her English rose garden.