Jane Stern Cockerill of Orient died peacefully April 25 at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue. She was 75 and had put up a courageous fight with lung cancer for 15 years.
Ms. Cockerill was a familiar figure in Orient, having spent all her childhood summers on the Hill, on land her grandparents had bought in 1906, when it took her grandmother two days by carriage to get to Orient from New Jersey. In summer, as a young girl and then as a young mother, she loved playing tennis on the Stern family court. She was, until recently, a member of Orient Yacht Club, where she learned how to sail as a youngster. She could run barefoot on the pebbles of the family’s Sound beach (which was not easy to do). As a teenager she was the best Lindy dancer in Orient, and the Stern family parties were legendary.
She was born Martha Jane Stern in Plainfield, N.J., Aug. 4, 1944, a daughter of Jonathan Dwight Stern and Margaret Keep Stern. She never used her first name and was always called Jane. She grew up in Westfield, N.J., and attended Westfield High School, leaving to marry Robert V. Cockerill. They were married for 20 years and had three children: Deborah Schweikart of Warwick, N.Y., Robert Cockerill of Southold and Thomas Cockerill of Beaumont, Texas The children were raised in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Ms. Cockerill worked at Eagle Business Machines as a saleswoman and then moved her family to Glen Rock, N.J. She and her husband ended their marriage and she relocated to Montrose, N.Y., where she obtained her real estate license and thoroughly enjoyed finding people their forever homes.
Ms. Cockerill returned to Orient full time in the mid-1990s, when she bought the Greenport Flower Garden, a florist shop on Front Street. According to Durell Godfrey of East Hampton, a friend from childhood in Orient, “As a florist she knew everyone and everything, as florists will: who had a baby, who got engaged, who was apologizing with flowers and who was having a party or wedding. She often knew before anyone else!” Ms. Cockerill was part of what we now call old Orient and her flower shop in Greenport was the heart of what was happening on the North Fork.
In 2005 the Stern family’s compound was sold and Ms. Cockerill moved off the Hill and into a house in Orient Village, where she lived with the two cats that came with the house. In 2010 she sold the flower shop and began working for Kharma, a women’s clothing store, also in Greenport. Her family said she alternated Sunday church services between Orient’s Congregational and Methodist churches, the latter being where her grandson Jason would play the organ while he was in medical school at Stony Brook. She watched every New York Yankees game she could in her official specially made New York Yankees jersey with her initials and those of her children on the back, along with the number 44. She even had an official Yankees cap.
In addition to her children, Ms. Cockerill’s three sisters, Nancy Matzinger of Hawley, Pa., Randy Graf of Parrish, Fla., and Sandy Bartle of Milford, Conn., survive, as well as her grandchildren, Jason Cockerill, Dahlia Cockerill and Trevor Cockerill; and two step-grandchildren, Jory Benjamin and Cassandra Schweikart. She is also survived by her beloved grand-dog, Sadie Belle. Her brother, Dwight Stern, died before her.
“Her sunny personality, her inner glow and charisma drew people to her,” Ms. Godfrey said of her friend. “Her phones were always full of messages from people, her post office box always full of greeting cards. Being the middle child she knew how to negotiate and accomplish things. She never accepted that something worked: She wanted to know why it worked … she bought the flower shop not knowing anything about flowers, hired the previous owner to teach her what and how and then, after a year of learning, she was ready for the weddings, the funerals, the Mother’s Days and the Valentine’s Days. The shop was always busy. She was amazing.”
After retiring, Jane spent her time in her beloved Orient. She went into hospice two days before her death.
The family would like to thank Mary Brown, Irene Claibourne and Cyndi Barletta for their wonderful and thoughtful care of Ms. Cockerill. “She loved you all,” Ms. Cockerill’s daughter, Deborah, said. Jane’s sisters Nancy, Sandy and Randy were always there for her, making her feel so loved. The wonderful Lynne Webster who stayed with her many nights watching sappy Hallmark movies. And endless thanks to Jane’s dear friend Irene Webb for sharing everything neighbors do: recipes, stories, the love of knitting and craft projects, taking her to almost all of her appointments and just being there when times got tough. And to her daughter, Deb, for always being there, making sure Jane was living life to the fullest, and that she was cared for and safe. Thanks to Durell for being the best friend and “sister” that anyone could have by their side. Durell has said of Jane, “She was the bravest person I will ever know.” Her long fight with cancer was manifested this way: Jane would say, “I have cancer but cancer does not have me.”
Ms. Cockerill was cremated. The family is planning a celebration of her life later in the year at her favorite beach. Her daughter said, “She will be missed terribly by so many who have been touched by her kindness, spirit and love. She was an inspiration to all. Goodbye, Jane Cockerill; the world is less bright with you not in it.”
The family has suggested memorial donations in the name of Martha Jane Cockerill for the Kanas Center for Hospice Care, 1 Meeting House Road, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978.
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