Jeanne Patricia Marriner

Jeanne Patricia Marriner, sailor/navigator, PR maven and savior of the Peconic Bays, as well as a beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and friend, passed peacefully, surrounded by her family, on July 1, 2022. She was 93 years old.

Jeanne was born on Feb. 23, 1929, in Flushing, N.Y., the only child of Adler William Wentzel and Jeanne Mathis Wentzel. Her childhood was spent wintering in Flushing and summering in Southampton.

When she was 15, she met her true love and future sailing skipper, Philip Richard Marriner, at a high school dance. They enjoyed a whirlwind courtship until Phil was called up to the Naval Air Force in April 1945. 

Jeanne graduated from Flushing High School with high honors (“Jeanne, Jeanne, with her eyes so blue and her IQ of 152”) and then matriculated at Queens College, where she majored in English literature/creative writing and joined Phi Sigma Sorority. After college, Jeanne was hired at Time Inc. Life Magazine as an editorial trainee. At the end of her first year, the fashion department, impressed with her writing and style, asked her to join them. 

Jeanne married Phil on June 11, 1949, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Flushing. The reception was at the Bayside Yacht Club.

While Phil was finishing his B.A. and MBA at Hofstra University, Jeanne commenced work there as the assistant to the dean of students. 

Jeanne and Phil made their home first in Westbury (where daughter Gayle was born) and then Centerport (where son Blake was born), up the hill from Centerport Yacht Club, their home away from home where they successfully raced Comets, Stars and Thistles up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and started the Penguin Frostbite Fleet. 

In 1963, Jeanne and Phil purchased their first summer home at the mouth of Deep Hole Creek in Mattituck and joined Mattituck Yacht Club and Old Cove Yacht Club, where many of Phil’s summer childhood friends raced and their children learned to sail. Jeanne became rear commodore of Mattituck Yacht Club and totally revised the Junior Sailing Program, gearing it toward FUN, seamanship and competitive racing, with a team racing component for the advanced junior sailors that had them traveling to, meeting and competing with yacht club junior sailors throughout Long Island. Jeanne and Phil were also the regatta chairmen for the Mattituck Yacht Club-hosted 1968 North American Multi Hull Championships and Little America’s Cup, the 1972 Comet Internationals and the 1974 Penguin Internationals.

A career move of Phil’s initiated a geographic move in 1965 to Woodstock, Conn., on Roseland Lake, where Jeanne and Phil taught their children, used to the predictable, steady sou’westers of the Peconics, the patience needed for the fluky wind shifts of lake sailing and, once the lake froze over in the winter, figure skating and ice hockey. 

When Phil was asked to manage Hard Sails, a sail-making loft headquartered on Long Island, Jeanne took over Hard Sails’ public relations efforts, coordinating with their advertising agency to create a strategic marketing plan that had a great impact on sales and profits, making Hard Sails one of the top sail lofts internationally. During the early ’70s, Jeanne was also editor of the newsletters “Hard Times” and the “Penguin Patter”; was a reporter and feature writer for The Suffolk Times/News-Review; and was a freelance writer for such publications as Soundings, Sail magazine and Long Island Boating. 

Jeanne also acted as one of the intervenors at the LILCO hearings for the proposed Jamesport nuclear plant, assisting to effectively nip it in the bud with her questioning regarding wind-borne radiation. With her sailor’s knowledge of the local winds, and with documentation from well-known yachting consultants, this was the perfect first melding of Jeanne’s love of sailing and of the North Fork environment. During this period, the family wintered in an 1860s sea captain’s house in Laurel and made the five-mile move to the Deep Hole Creek cottage for the summers until they purchased their Salt Lake Village house at the mouth of James Creek in Mattituck. 

At that time Phil bought a Ranger 23 to initiate his family into the world of the MORC (Midget Ocean Racing Circuit) and named her “FUN.” Jeanne, always an equal partner in their one-design racing, refused to be relegated to the galley, thus, over the winter, taught herself navigation and became a top-notch navigator during FUN’s super-successful years on the ocean racing circuit. And it was FUN, racing, and winning, together as a family.

In the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, Phil’s career moved them to first Guilford, Conn., and then Wellesley, Mass. Jeanne attended Boston University for public relations and met Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” who became her mentor. In 1980, Jeanne won the New England Hospital Public Relations Association top award for her work as director of corporate communications at Charles River Hospital and Community Care Systems. Jeanne then moved on to Boston University Medical Center as part of their contract services to community hospitals. During that time Jeanne developed Glover Hospital’s corporate image with a comprehensive marketing/development/public relations program and helped Dr. Timothy Johnson of ABC-TV develop his medical television program.

In the mid-’80s, Phil retired to the Salt Lake Village summer home in Mattituck, after being invited to consult for a French textile firm in Lyon, where he and Jeanne were feted and then went on their own tour of France. Upon their return, Jeanne took on the mantle of president of the Riverhead-Southold League of Women Voters from 1985 to 1987, when she worked closely with the town boards “to gather information and set priorities on ways to ensure the economic and environmental vitality of the North Fork in the future” at a time of greatly increased debate in Southold Town on environmental issues such as the master plan. In 1985 Jeanne was appointed by the Southold Town Board to the Conservation Advisory Council. Jeanne was also active in the successful drive to pass the 1986 $1.15 billion Environmental Quality Bond Act.

The brown tide struck Jeanne’s beloved Peconic Bays in 1985. Phil now acted as Jeanne’s support system in her successful all-consuming efforts to save the bays. Utilizing all of her public relations, marketing and strategic planning skills, Jeanne started a grassroots effort that had Suffolk County appointing a Brown Tide Task Force to help determine a course of action to preserve the bays. Jeanne was appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee and was asked to draw up a marketing plan which consisted of special events and conferences, publications/videos, a speakers’ bureau, a lobbying corps and a timetable of actions. To help with raising public concern and funding for the bay, Jeanne founded a not-for-profit, Save the Peconic Bays. The aims of STPB included massive public outreach and getting the Peconic Bay estuarine system U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designation as part of the National Estuary Program, which would bring millions of dollars’ worth of funding for developing, and implementing, a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the bays. In 1992, after years of hard work, the Peconic Bays were designated the 18th estuary in the National Estuary Program! 

In 1989 Jeanne was named Civic Person of the Year by The Suffolk Times for her efforts to save the bays. And in 1991, as part of a group of concerned citizens that organized the North Fork Planning Conference, she and 12 others were named The Suffolk Times 1991 Persons of the Year. In 1993 Jeanne retired.

In 1999 Jeanne and Phil celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home on the bay. In 2003, Phil felt the urge to revisit his childhood country home upstate and he and Jeanne moved up to North Chatham and spent 10 years re-exploring the majesty of upstate New York and forming many new friendships. Jeanne’s project up there was “Books & Blooms,” the annual fundraiser for the local library. At the end of 2013, these two made Phil’s final move to West Haven, Conn., to be closer to their children. Phil passed away in May 2017, leaving Jeanne heartbroken. In January 2019 she moved back down to her much-loved North Fork and lived next door to her daughter, Gayle, on Laurel Lake in Mattituck for three-and-a-half years until she suddenly passed away on July 1.

Jeanne is survived by her daughter, Gayle Marriner-Smith, and son-in-law, Christopher Field Smith of Mattituck, N.Y.; her son, Blake Richard Marriner, and daughter-in-law, Diane Milazzo Marriner of West Haven, Conn.; her grandsons, Eric and Gregory Marriner, and granddaughter-in-law, Maria Marriner; and her fox terrier, Lyra.

A celebration of Jeanne Marriner’s life will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Mattituck home of Gayle Marriner-Smith and Chris Smith. 

Donations in Jeanne’s name may be made to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program’s Scallop Project or the Church of the Redeemer memorial garden in Mattituck.

This is a paid notice.