February 10, 2022

Rest in Power, Sister Jackie Roach

By Ginette Rivard
MSEA-SEIU past president

Jackie Roach left this world on January 16, 2022, at the age of 89. Jackie loved The County, and her granddaughter even more, and it is only fitting that she spent her last few months in Easton in her care. Growing up in Mattawamkeag, she learned her work ethic at her family’s business, the Huston House. An Alumni of the University of Maine at Presque Isle, she had many humorous stories to tell. And she did.

She loved teaching and spent her career teaching in the Unorganized Schools, mostly at the Benedicta school. She would often meet people who recognized her as their teacher. She may not have recognized them as adults but she always remembered them as her former students and would share a very specific memory with them.

As a state employee, Jackie joined her union. Never one to sit by and let life happen, she became active in her local Chapter. However, it is upon retirement that most of us got to know her.

Shortly after retiring, Jackie embarked on a months-long program known as the Heroes Program. This work took her to training programs in Baltimore and San Francisco, but it also took her to worksites on cold early mornings, chapter meetings and knocking on doors on behalf of MSEA-endorsed candidates.

Her political work did not stop there. Jackie was well known by Governors, Legislators and Lobbyists for getting right to the point as she advocated for an issue. She testified a number of times on behalf of retirees and workers’ rights in general. She was unparalleled in collecting signatures for citizens’ initiatives. Who could say no to her? And she spent hours in the upstairs office of 71 State St., Augusta, organizing these to be sent to cities and towns for certification.
Many candidates, especially in the greater Augusta area, have benefited from Jackie’s love of the political process. For many campaign seasons, Jackie knocked on doors on behalf of endorsed candidates. She did this until her body could no longer do it and then she drove her teammate, until she could no longer.

She was a relentless PASER supporter and recruited many of us to sign up and/or increase our contribution. When she set her mind to signing up businesses for member benefits, we saw a great increase in access and availability statewide.

Jackie was just as comfortable stuffing envelopes as she was serving on the Board of Directors. No task was too menial.
If you knew Jackie, you knew that she had union in her blood. She was honest to a fault, strong willed, sincere, generous and loved to have fun. And she loved her Yankees.

Friend, union sister, role model, sounding board, travel partner, roommate. Jackie was all this and much more. I cherish the times we had together and I carry her memory and her example in my heart. So many memories! Rest in Power, dear Jackie.

We invited folks to share a favorite memory of Jackie to be shared with her granddaughter, her only surviving family:

Cynthia Oakes: She was a tiny but mighty advocate for workers and will be sorely missed.

Ginette RivardCynthia Oakes she was a 5-foot-tall giant.

Cynthia OakesGinette Rivard 5 foot of smile is what I remember most!

Marie Wilson: She was a nice lady and will be missed by many!

Lois Baxter: She will be greatly missed. She and I used to joke about how our adventures in the early days of Summer School would forever remain between the two of us (and they will ). I loved Jackie. She a wonderful person and I morn her passing. RIP, Jackie.

Diane Goodall Sharpe: The old saying “Good things come in small packages” definitely describes Jackie! RIP, you will be missed by all who knew you.

Ramona Welton: Early in my political-learning period, I found myself with Jackie and several other members at the Legislature in Appropriations listening and monitoring. The hours passed, and trust me those chairs get uncomfortable after 6-8 hours. Jackie continue to sit and chat with us as the hours passed. People started to trickle off, leaving the committee continue to work. I thought I would stay till Jackie left. JtRea and I continued to stay. About 2 a.m., I’m thinking, holy this could be an all-nighter. Jackie continued to chat and share her experiences teaching and (knocking on) doors. We shared a link of The County, so I knew the geography and in many cases the people. Finally, at about 4 or possibly 5 a.m., the committee adjourned. We briefly, very briefly all compared notes and went on our way. Lesson of the night: Jackie was committed to the members of MSEA; she was competitive and could out-work and out-wait anyone. She might smile her sweet smile, but she would take you out at the knee verbally. As a role model, I could do no better. You are missed; safe passage, dear one.

Michelle Sinclair: I met this beautiful lady. She will truly be missed.

Jonathan French: Jackie was as kind as she was a fierce advocate for Maine workers and retirees. She was the example of union activism and I would enjoy seeing and chatting with her in the State House or in the Board Room or at one of many, many rallies she attended. Her energy and drive, and of course conversations about her Yankees vs. my Orioles, are the things I will remember most about her. Rest in power, Jackie.

Chris Condon: It was close to 20 years ago that I spent the summer with MSEA 1989 supporting its political program and I still have such fond memories of Jackie. She was everything good and right about a union member and an even better person.

Heidi Brooks: She was a great teacher and mentor throughout her life. We are sorry for her family’s loss.

Steven R. Keaten: I can’t imagine my life without her. I thought of her as my second mother. Everything anyone posts of her on here was that and so much more. We’ve lost a true inspiration to us all. I have so many wonderful memories of her. I know she’s in the loving arms of her daughter and so happy now and that’s the way it should be. Till we meet again.

Wade Colpitts: Jackie. She was a great friend and one great Lady ,loved by many. I loved being on the board with her. I will miss her.

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