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Jeanne Isabel Casstevens Savery ’60

A picture of Jeanne Savery Casstevens

Jeanne Isabel Savery Casstevens ’60, February 21, 2014, in hospice care in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from cancer.

Jeanne was a remarkably successful and prolific author who wrote more than 40 novels and novellas, populated by a dizzying array of pretty widows, brooding marquesses, witty rakes, scheming schoolboys, mischievous noblewomen, blind lords, cross-dressing twins, and the occasional vampire—all published after she turned 50.

Jeanne came to Reed from Iowa, and met her future husband, Thomas W. Casstevens ’59, her freshman year. (Tom confesses to wanting to meet Jeanne after seeing her picture among the incoming freshman photos at the college switchboard. That they both hailed from Iowa clinched the deal.) They married after Jeanne’s sophomore year and she left the college with Tom a year later to go to Michigan State University, where she completed a BA in psychology and he earned a doctorate in political science. Tom’s subsequent career was largely at Oakland University in Michigan.

In Jeanne’s words, “Hubby had itchy feet, so the family traveled whenever he found funding.” Jeanne lived across the United Sftates, and in England, Australia, Germany, and India. She traveled about Britain and Europe accumulating material for rigorously researched and historically informed writing. In more recent years, she invariably took her laptop with her. 

Jeanne and Tom, who was, as she said, a “wonderfully supportive husband,” had two daughters, Willa J. Casstevens ’82, and Margot L. Casstevens. Both are successful academics. Jeanne took particular joy in nurturing Margot’s professional career as an artist. Jeanne was devoted to her family and choreographed its travels over the years.

Jeanne said that she began writing in the ’70s, when she stopped being a perpetual student. But it was the work of Georgette Heyer, who defined the genre of the Regency romance, that proved to be the inspiration for her vocation as a writer, Tom recalls. 

Jeanne’s first book, The Last of the Winter Roses, was published in 1991 under the name Jeanne Savery and launched an impressive career. Three of her books, My Lady Housekeeper, The Family Matchmaker, and Taming Lord Renwick, were rated as RT Book Review Top Picks. She won the Reader’s Choice Award and the HOLT Medallion. Several of her novels were translated into other languages, including Portuguese, German, Hebrew, and Korean.

When oral cancer led to a tracheotomy in 2013, Jeanne continued to jot down ideas and scenes in the notebooks she used to communicate with her nurses. 

Jeanne’s complete works in English (and some translations) are now part of the Reediana collection in the Hauser Library. These books were gifts made by Jeanne and Tom over several years. 

Jeanne and Tom loved to travel. Most memorable of their many travels together was their “Hum 11 cruise,” as they dubbed it, which they took in October 2012 after Jeanne had recovered from an initial round of treatment for cancer. They traveled to Venice, and as far east as Odessa via Istanbul, before concluding the trip in Athens at the foot of the Parthenon.

Survivors include Tom, Willa, Margot, and three grandsons.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2014

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