Jeanne Cooley Greeley Thayer – The Independent of Santa Barbara


Jeanne Cooley Greeley Thayer passed away on July 6, 2021, at the age of 103. Jeanne began a long life on September 26, 1917. Child of an army officer, Jeanne lived for years abroad in Hawaii, the Philippines and Paris. , sowing in her an appreciation of culture that would resonate through her accomplishments later in life.

At the age of 17, Jeanne moved to New York on her own with the ambition of becoming an actress. Her strong desire to act led her to pursue a job in the intimidating world of show business, where she started out as a model and then got a role in the play titled The women. Active participant or attentive spectator, Jeanne developed a love for theater and the performing arts.

During World War II, Jeanne served as an analyst for the Air Transport Command’s Information Intelligence Unit before mourning the death of her first husband, Horace Greeley, who was killed as a prisoner of war in Bataan.

After the war, Jeanne remarried and founded a family with Walter N. Thayer. During this time, she began a new chapter in her life, supporting the arts and education in countless forms. She was a member of the Westchester Council of the Arts, the Council of the College of Purchase, and later a member of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York. Two scholarships are awarded in her honor, in Fine Arts and Performing Arts, both of which are still awarded to graduate students of SUNY.

Beyond her service to academia, Jeanne remained involved in other arts organizations, serving on the boards of the New York City Ballet, Sleepy Hollow Restorations (now Historic Hudson Valley), and was a director at life of the Museum of Modern Art, with which she served on numerous committees, including the International Council. Jeanne was also the first woman to deliver the opening speech at Attica Correctional Center as the administrator of SUNY.

Having spent most of her life in New York City, Jeanne moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1994, where she lived until her death. Despite the distance, Jeanne travels to New York often and remains passionately committed to the promotion of the arts and the appreciation of culture in all its forms. In Santa Barbara, Jeanne became the godmother of international music students at the Music Academy of the West and spent countless hours enjoying their art and encouraging their work.

From New York to California, between galleries and gardens, Jeanne seeks beauty and often finds it. She continued to share this beauty with those around her. She was a treasure and an inspiration to friends and family. She was caring and dedicated as a wife and mother. She passed on her love for the arts, travel and the importance of education to all of her children and grandchildren.

In the words of her granddaughter, Kate O’Shaughnessy, “She held everyone she met with unconditional positive consideration. She had the grace of a ballerina and the wit of a scholar. Jeanne is survived by her children Tom Thayer, Gail Reagan, Susan Noble and Ann Thayer, 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.


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