Jenny Garneau was a force of nature. She would walk into a room and could amp up even the most sedate discussion into a highly spirited dialogue. Jenny wouldn’t simply light up a room; she would electrify it.
In 2002, gathering in the kitchen of the home of Biff and Linda Levy, along with Bill Ferrall, Fifi Greenberg, and this writer, Jenny helped found N Magazine and became the go-to person when encouragement was needed, diplomacy was required, and ideas were wanted. When N decided that it needed to be more deeply rooted in the community, it was Jenny who took the idea of Nantucket Restaurant Week and turned it into not only a great business generator for the island’s dining establishments, but found a way to turn it into a teaching program for the high school’s culinary arts curriculum. Enough was never enough for Jenny, and Restaurant Week would go on to hold a Junior Chef cooking contest for Nantucket’s youth.
Nothing about Jenny was half-way. When N Magazine was determining a strategy for reaching the highest income demographic readership on the island, it was Jenny who questioned, “Why stop on Nantucket?” Before we knew it, N Magazine was being distributed at all the private jet terminals throughout New England, giving the publication a reach like none other on the island.
Life after N only became more and more active for her, and there were few parts of island life not touched by her kinetic energy. Over the course of her nearly twenty-five years living year-round on Nantucket, Jenny served on the Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of Nantucket Public Schools, the Nantucket School Committee and State Department of Mental Health. She was the only person who felt like she had just won the lottery by becoming head of the Suicide Prevention Coalition on Nantucket. She approached a job that was a matter of life and death with a spirit that seemed almost impervious to the often dark nature of the task. Throughout it all, Jenny’s central motivation was serving Nantucket’s youth and working for a better future for the island.
When Jenny learned of her diagnosis of cancer, she viewed it as more of an opportunity to beat it rather than a setback. Indeed, Jenny met her illness as if it were another chance for her to prevail over an enormous challenge. So powerful was Jenny’s sense of optimism, that just months before she died, I received a breathless phone call from her about the idea of buying the Inquirer & Mirror and us getting together once again as a team. Having run the Nantucket Beacon newspaper years ago, she laid out in detail all her plans, and how she was ready to step up to the plate and pull it all together.
It is trite to say that a person’s memory lives on after they are gone, but Jenny’s life force was so extraordinary that her presence still reverberates around all of those who spent time with her. N Magazine had and continues to have Jenny Garneau’s fingerprints inked all over it, and her spirit will forever remain a part of this publication.