By Rosemary Rimkus, Hudson Columnist
HUDSON – The legacy of beloved dance and gym teacher Jean Beddow-Arnth will continue in the memories of at least two generations of former students.
“Miss Jean,” as she was affectionately known by her ballet and gymnastics students, passed away on Sept. 27, at the age of 96. She was actively engaged in teaching both arts until her retirement in 2009 at the age of 85.
British-born, the professional dancer and gymnast arrived in Hudson in 1953 and promptly opened “Miss Jean’s School of Dance.” It was her June recitals that introduced generations of Hudson 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 posh place on Felton Street.”
“Her end-of-year dance recitals in Hudson Town Hall in June were legendary, and her proper manner, English accent and red hair made quite an impression on aspiring ballerinas of all ages,” Lamson said. “While she never married and never had children of her own,…she had hundreds of children and treated them all with love and kindness.”
Former student and business partner Linda LeSage said her child-themed productions, focused on everything from Disney to Broadway musicals, exhibited Miss Jean’s “show business” flair.
She noted that printed programs of the shows remain treasured by former pupils.
Denise Houseman of Manchester, N.H., recalls starting ballet lessons with Miss Jean at seven years old, continuing through high school, and then teaching gymnastics at Miss Jean’s School.
Houseman has since continued her athletic career in the Scottish Highland Games, where she is an eight-time World champion. She is also a gymnastics teacher at the Manchester YMCA.
Beginning as a four-year-old ballet student, Sandra (Ferreira) Rossi of 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 true icon in the community,” said Nikki (Young) Banfield of Shrewsbury, who started taking dance lessons at two years old, and continued to be a gymnastics teacher at Miss Jean’s School.
“She was a genuine role model,” she said.
Jean’s School of Gymnastics relocated to Marlborough in 1986. There, Miss Jean continued to teach until she sold the school and retired in 2009, 56 years after she had founded it. The school continues to bear her name.
A child of World War II in England, Miss Jean often recalled performing with her acrobatic troop 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 “cuppa tea and biscuits,” as well as the beauty of her English-style rose garden.