Eva and Keith Jesso will celebrate their 57th anniversary this year. (Herald / Martha Slater)

Happy Valentine's Day, Keith and Eva Jesso!


Submitted 10 months ago
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Martha Slater

More than Five Decades Sharing a Life in the Valley

Married on June 17, 1961 at the church in Pittsfield village, Keith and Eva Jesso of Hancock met when they were students at Rochester High School. 

They say that their first date was at a school function, although they admit that neither of them can remember what it was.

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The daughter of Ralph and Gladys MacNeil, Eva grew up in Hancock with one older sister. Keith grew up in Rochester village, one of five children of Andrew and Chloe Jesso, and had to leave RHS after his junior year. “My father broke his back and I had to go to work to help the family,” he said. Eva graduated from Rochester High School in 1961.

“I graduated on June 15 and we got married two days later!” she said with a grin.

The newlyweds lived in Rochester village for the first few years of their marriage, before moving up the valley to their present home, which they built themselves, on Taylor Brook Road in Hancock.

This picture and the next from The Herald’s archives were printed in 1963, with an article about the work the couple was doing while building their house.


“To build the foundation, we mixed all the concrete by hand and hauled it in a wheelbarrow,” recalled Eva, who at that time was working in the office at the Weyerhauser mill in Hancock. “We still had the upstairs to do when our oldest daughter, Jill, came along in 1967.”

Jill was later joined by three younger sisters—Janet, Juli, and Jody, who arrived in 1970, 1971, and 1975 respectively.

Why do all of their names start with J?

“They were just all names that we liked,” said Eva.
While the girls were growing up, the family took summer camping trips in a pop-up trailer, and vacation trips to Washington, D.C.; Montreal, Williamsburg, Va.; North Carolina, and to Chincoteague Island to see the wild horses.

“We also used to square dance as part of the White Water Wheelers Club that was based in Rochester,” Keith said. “We danced in the school gym and the GAR Hall, and then at the Hancock Town Hall, and we’d go to dances at the other clubs, too.”

Serving the Community

Through the years, both Keith and Eva have also served in various town positions in Hancock. Eva was elected town clerk in 1969 and served several terms in that office, as well as being town auditor and treasurer, and serving on the school board. The last paid job Eva held was for 15 years at a physician’s office in Middlebury, but even though she’s “retired” now, she still keeps busy with volunteer work.

When they were first married, Keith worked doing maintenance at state parks and then for ski areas, the Goodro Lumber Co., and the Rochester Hardware. During those busy years, he also opened his own building and remodeling business, and about 40 years ago, became head of maintenance for Camp Killooleet, a position he still holds.

All four of the Jesso daughters are married and live nearby, and there are now eight grandchildren. Jill works in management at the Community Healthcare Center of the Rutland Region, Janet has her own editing business and is the newly elected Hancock Town Clerk, Julie is the director at the Park House in Rochester, and Jody is the director of the Quintown Senior Center in Hancock.

“We love to get everyone together for the holidays and other occasions,” Eva said.

Good Advice

With their 57th wedding anniversary coming up in June, the Jessos were asked, “What’s the secret to having a long and happy marriage?”

“I say ‘yes, ma’am,’ a lot!” joked Keith with a big grin. “She’s very patient!”

“Well, we don’t always agree on everything,” Eva added, “But, when you love someone and marry them, you have to learn to make compromises.”

Both agreed on one thing:

“We never go to bed angry.”

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