Goodbye, Jeannine

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Downtown Howell is reeling from the death of longtime merchant and community activist Jeannine MacDonald, who died suddenly Monday at the age of 57.

Jeannine owned Lady’s Rebecca Choice on Grand River Avenue.

I met Jeannine years ago, when she owned The Shenandoah Shop in Hartland’s settlement area.

The store was packed with all sorts of interesting, eclectic stuff, displayed beautifully, as was Jeannine’s style.

Then, Jeannine moved her store to Howell, opening Thistledown, a wee division of the Shenandoah Shop, on Clinton Street.

I interviewed Jeannine for a story on the new store for the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. It was the usual “new store coming to town” type story, but I remember something she told me, something a customer said to her: He imagined that the store looked just like the inside of her head, or something to that effect. I knew exactly what he meant, that the wonderful stuff, displayed so creatively, was an extension of Jeannine herself.

It was a cool thought, and I’ve remembered it all these years. Anyone who knew Jeannine at all will agree with that customer’s assessment.

Then, Jeannine moved the store to Grand River Avenue, eventually opening Lady Rebecca’s Choice across the street, paying homage to her mother with its name. Running two storefronts became difficult, and Jeannine closed Thistledown and moved Lady Rebecca’s into the space.

Years ago, I spent a wonderful New Year’s Eve in the apartment of a co-worker who happened to be a neighbor of Jeannine’s. As the party ramped up, Jeannine arrived with her husband, David, and the conversation made a U-turn from the usual, not-very-memorable stuff to a lively, in-depth discussion of Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Jeannine and David were a great pair, sharing a wonderfully productive and imaginative creative streak. Together they designed and made jewelry. Individually, Jeannine designed and created pieces of fiber art, and David’s skills run the gamut from carpentry to art; a metal-and-glass piece David created has an honored place in my garden.

For nearly two years now, I’ve seen Jeannine quite a lot. She was a morning regular at Uptown Coffeehouse in downtown Howell, and I hang out there a lot since I lost my job. She’d usually sit at the second tall table against the wall, almost always talking with someone.

Sometimes, that someone was lucky me. Jeannine really liked and was encouraging as I took over the site on my own. She had been planning to blog, and I’m sad I won’t get to see the product of her eclectic and creative mind.

As is the reality of life as an independent merchant, Jeannine got hit hard by the plummeting economy. But she wasn’t one to let something like a recession keep her down. A creative retailer, Jeannine always had special promotions and sales in the works. She was also a generous friend to her fellow downtown merchants.

Her Facebook page is filling up with messages of condolence, and her death leaves a huge, gaping hole in the fabric of the life of downtown Howell. A true original — as a retailer and in her own life — there won’t ever be another Jeannine.

About Maria Stuart 211 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.