Jeanne Wilhelm

BERNE —  Jeanne (née Meacham) Wilhelm —  known as “Aunt Jeanne” to multitudes she babysat, cared for, and nurtured — died peacefully on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.  She was 88.

“We called her the Energizer Bunny,” said her brother, Donald Meacham. “She was just so full of life and bubbly.”

Mrs. Wilhelm grew up on Indian Ladder Farms in New Scotland. Her father, Robert Meacham, was the manager of the farm from 1940 to 1956. Her mother, Bernice, worked on the farm until her four children had grown, and then she taught kindergarten.

The oldest of four children, and the only girl, “Jeanne was subject to a lot of teasing and tormenting,” said Donald Meacham. “She took it well and gave it back.” He added, “She was my dad’s gal.”

Mrs. Wilhelm liked school. She was the salutatorian of the Voorheesville Class of 1947 and went on to Plattsburgh State Teachers’ College where she majored in home economics. After graduating from college, she taught in Remsen, New York.

She married Charlie Wilhelm, who worked for American Airlines. The couple lived in Hackensack, New Jersey and Mrs. Wilhelm worked in the now-defunct Newberry’s department store.

The couple bought land from Rudy Stempel in Berne and built a house there. “They hauled up stakes and moved to the Hilltowns,” said Mr. Meacham. “They loved it and rarely left.”

Mrs. Wilhelm was revered as a babysitter and sometimes her husband would join her; when parents went on extended trips, the Wilhelms would move in to care for the children in their own homes.

“Jeanne’s focus was always on kids. She loved kids and had none of her own,” said Mr. Meacham. “Any time she could get her hands on a kid, she was at her happiest and so were the kids.”

In her later years, Mrs. Wilhelm was active with the local seniors group and with the Berne Historical Society.

“She loved to have people visit and to do things for people. She never said an unkind word about anybody. She just adopted them,” said Mr. Meacham. One of the people she “adopted” was John Freer when he was 14, said Mr. Meacham. “She treated John as her own child,” he said.

In her later years, John Freer and his wife, Christine, and their young daughter, Tracy Jean, moved into Mrs. Wilhelm’s home to care for her. “Tracy was absolutely the apple of Jeanne’s eye,” said Mr. Meacham.

“It just became a larger family,” he concluded.


Jeanne (née Meacham) Wilhelm is survived by her brother, Donald Meacham, and his wife, Lauren; her sister-in-law, Beverly Meacham; her nephews Dean Meacham, Jim Meacham and his wife, Dawn, John Meacham and his wife, Nikki, and Tom Meacham; her nieces, Darcy Morrison and Margaret Klemm and her husband, Richard; and her many great-nieces and great-nephews.

She is also survived by special people, John, Christine, and Tracy Jean Freer; Anne Margaret Oldick and her husband, Bill; Mary Claire Ansbro-Ingalls; “Buddy” Deegan; and Anne Higgs.

Her husband, Charlie Wilhelm, died before her as did her parents, Robert and Bernice Meacham, and her brothers, Jim and Tom Meacham.

A memorial service will be held at Rock Road Chapel, 96 Rock Rd., Berne on Saturday, Dec. 9, at noon.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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