A gifted actor, tireless worker, steadfast friend and animal lover who seldom met a rescue she didn’t want to adopt, Jere Vallack Jacob died peacefully in Greenport, N.Y., on June 26, 2021.
Jere was born in Denville, N.J., on Sept. 30, 1941. Her father’s work took the family to Mexico, where Jere spent the first few years of her life. At the completion of his work in Mexico the family returned permanently to the United States. Growing up in a relatively rural area of New Jersey, Jere was an active 4-H member, a fact she shared with some delight in succeeding decades.
Jere attended Goucher College where, in her freshman year, the school’s stage was destroyed in a fire. Considering this a bad omen for a theater major, she transferred to NYU, graduating in 1963.
Jere held a number of jobs after college. She finally found her home when she joined Joe Cates Productions, a premier producer of television specials including two Emmy-winning shows on which Jere worked, one of which, “S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous, S’Gershwin,” featured Fred Astaire. There is some disagreement about what pleased Jere more — working on an Emmy-winning show or being able to sneak her mother into the taping of an Astaire dance number. Beginning in 1974, she spent many Christmases in Monaco working on the Festival International du Cirque de Monte Carlo creating TV specials for international distribution.
During this period, Jere also attended graduate school. In 1978, she received an MBA from Columbia University.
In the early 1980s, Jere moved to the North Fork with her partner Anne West. She bought an antique shop in Greenport and threw herself into the life of her newfound community. Eventually, she closed the antique shop and, in due course, started a house restoration/painting company that she ran until her recent retirement.
Whatever else she was doing, Jere’s love of the theater never faltered. She was an early member of The Jean Cocteau Repertory, a highly respected off-off-Broadway company that presented classic and contemporary plays. Jere’s roles were as diverse as the title role in Robinson Jeffers’ “Medea” and Mrs. Venable in “Suddenly Last Summer.” She also created and performed a one-woman show based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. In addition to performances at The Bouwerie Lane Theater she presented the work at numerous schools and colleges.
Jere Jacob and Amie Sponza in ”Night Mother.’
Her interest in theater continued during her years on the North Fork. In addition to directing or acting in a number of off-off-Broadway productions in New York, she worked with Northeast Stage. She performed in “ ’night, Mother” with Amie Sponza. Jere was stunning in her portrayal of Mama struggling to keep her daughter from killing herself. Peg Murray, paraphrased in her review, wrote, “Because Jere Jacob and Amie Sponza are not afraid to be intensely involved in each moment of the life they portray, the audience is able to surrender to the story and be carried away.” They later performed together in “Collected Stories,” where Jere, as the mentor, was “perfect casting.” Amie said of her acting partner, “She was a professional, through and through. Every stage she graced with her talent and presence was the better for it. And those of us lucky enough to share the stage with her grew as a result.”
Jere met another acting partner, Thomas DeWolfe, when he was directing Shakespeare in the Park, where he recalls casting Jere as the Duke in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” They later played together in “The Gin Game” and other plays and dramatic readings. For 15 years, their dramatic reading of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” became an annual holiday event at Floyd Memorial Library and other locations on the North Fork.
Jere’s commitment to the life of the North Fork did not end with the theater. She was a dedicated member of the Rotary Club of Southold for 22 years, serving as president for one year and as treasurer for seven years. She was a Paul Harris Fellow, an award given by the Rotary to an outstanding member. Jere was a “multiple Fellow,” receiving the award on more than one occasion. Her dedication and commitment is illustrated by the fact that, the night before she entered the hospital, she drove herself from Greenport to Cutchogue because she had agreed to present an award at the club’s installation dinner.
Jere had a strong devotion to Unitarian Univeralism and was a member of First Universalist Church of Southold and later a founding member of North Fork Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and its treasurer. Jere was the “go-to person” in the fellowship. Children in the church dubbed her “our Jere.”
2004 NFWFWF Board: Eileen Rich, Mary Rider, President Phyllis Zwarych, Treasurer Jere Jacob, Lynn Cataldo, VP Lois Eigabroadt. Bottom row: Judith Quinn, Ellen Neff, Lisa Scott
Another of Jere’s commitments was to North Fork Women. From its founding in 1992, Jere was an active member, serving on its board as treasurer from 2002 to 2006. She was well known for her role as emcee for their talent shows in the 2010s.
In 1999, Jere joined the Narrow River Singers, performing with them for 19 of their 20 years. There, too, she shared her skills in handling their finances and offering frequent advice regarding production of their concerts.
She is survived by her brother, Reid M. Jacob, and sister-in-law, Pat Jacob, of Bellvue, Colo.; numerous nieces and nephews, among them Jessica Payne and Kimberly Prendergast; and her dear friend Buffy Hartmann. Many, many friends she made and valued throughout her life knew her as “our Jere.” Life on the North Fork will not be the same without her.
Donations may be made in her memory to a charity of your choice.