HARPERS FERRY – Jenny Eaton was devoted to helping children and families, and she made the most of every minute.
“She never slowed down,” said Lacy Morise, a speech pathologist who worked with Eaton at the West Virginia Birth To Three Program, the statewide intervention for families with children delayed in their development or at risk for having a delay.
Eaton, who would have marked her 66th birthday on Monday, accomplished so much every day, Morise said, and all of it “was to benefit others.”
Those who knew the longtime Harpers Ferry resident killed last week when a driver hit her as she rode her bike in her native Hardy County describe a devoted, high-energy community leader.
She had countless connections throughout the Panhandle after serving as a coordinator with Birth to Three for more than 19 years. She stayed in touch with families for years, long after they’d left the program, and at the time of her death she was working with 113 families in Jefferson and Berkeley counties.
“She always referred to every kid that she worked for as ‘her baby,’” Morise recalled. She also spent more than five decades in 4-H, first as a club member and then leading the Bakerton Country Roads 4-H Club and serving as a counselor and instructor at 4-H camp every summer.
A cyclist who kept pace with much younger riders, Eaton raised thousands through Outspoken for 4-H and other fundraisers that took her across the rural byways of her native state.
She was a regular at Camp Gizmo in Romney, the camp that offers intensive training in using assistive technology to help youngsters with disabilities.
Eaton also found time to volunteer regularly at the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library.
Friends say she loved to share her passions which included birding, bicycling, homeopathic medicine, environmental conservation, yoga, hiking, running, rock climbing, white water rafting, quilting and gardening.
“She was always talking and laughing while she talked,” said James Grantham, a county 4-H leader.
Survivors include her daughters, Kathryn Vidmar of Harpers Ferry and Maddie Vidmar of Waynesboro, Va.
Her family has scheduled a celebration of her life for 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Hardy County 4-H Camp in Wardensville as well as another service in Harpers Ferry, though that date hasn’t been set.
The valedictorian of Moorefield High in 1971 – the same year she won the “Miss Moorefield” title – Eaton went on to earn a bachelor’s in child development and family relations from West Virginia University and a master’s in child development and family life from Ohio University.
Her career involved connecting children with physical therapy, speech therapy, nutrition and the other services they needed.
She’d attended a Labor Day weekend family reunion in Moorefield and was out on a morning ride along U.S. 220 when, according to police, a driver identified as Adam Colasessano struck her, fled and crashed a second time into a house. He drove off again before being stopped by police.
“She had so much more to give to her community, to the families she worked with and to all of us here,” Morise said.
Colasessano, 40, a resident of Moorefield, faces charges of DUI causing death and hit and run causing death.