Jean is an artist of presentation, not only on stage but in any
conversation. During the walk's lunch break, she shared her history
and thoughts, not only with LDN, but also with many of the other
re-enactors. In effect, she was holding court, moving in and out of
conversations with all as easily as she has played the part of so
many characters over the years.
Born in Lincoln as Rhoda Jean
Brown, she was the only daughter of Vernon and Frances Musick-Brown.
She has a brother, James, who currently lives in California.
Jean went to LCHS and then to Illinois Wesleyan, finishing at
ISU. She received her degree in science with minors in journalism
and language. "I intended to be the greatest female Dr. Schweitzer,"
Jean knew her husband, Bill, long before they dated. "We knew
each other; our families knew each other," she said.
It was when Bill returned from the service and she was home from
college that they finally went on a date, of sorts. "A mutual friend
said a group was going over to the Lakewood Supper Club in Havana
and recommended Bill ask me to go with him and them for the
evening," she said. "We had a great time and I didn't get home till
3 a.m. Of course Mom was waiting for me, but that didn't deter me.
We have been dating every night since then."
Bill and Jean married the next spring and have two adopted sons,
Geoffrey and Gregory.
Jean worked for years as a purchasing agent at Lehn & Fink. Later
she began working with Bill in the family business, Gossett
Working retail and raising two sons would be enough for many, but
Jean found time for her passion for the arts, especially the stage.
From her school days at Lincoln Junior High, the high school and
throughout her college years, Jean was involved with the theater,
and it was this early enrapture with the stage that has fueled her
commitment for over four decades. "Being on stage is cheaper and
better than therapy," she claims. "On a stage you can act like a
damn fool and people will stand up and cheer your performance."
Gossett is a founding member of the Lincoln Community Theatre,
and over the 37-year run of the group isn't sure how many times she
has been on stage. But whether in the spotlight or not, she actively
supports the endeavors of the organization.
Jeff Kindred, a re-enactor at the cemetery walk and a past
veteran of LCT, explained how important Jean was and is to local
group. "She is the grande dame of the community theater," he said.
"I mean (she is) such a driving force and such an important part
over all the years that I was involved. Jean is quite the
personality. She is strong in everything she does and she's so
strong in her convictions, and she always makes me laugh. She's one
of those people who are always full of stories, and I really enjoy
Julie King, a veteran of the local stage herself, said: "Jean is
remarkable to work with. She brings something to the stage that you
don't typically see. She just knows how to occupy the stage when she
is on and how to be a presence without stepping on anybody else's
character. She's terrific to work with."
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While Jean and Julie reminisced about some of the productions they
were on together, Jean offered the answer to a question before it
"The two most memorable performances I was involved with were
'Legends,' where I worked with Jean Daugherty, who was absolutely
marvelous, and 'Hello, Dolly!' I sang 'Hello, Dolly!' and of course
I can't sing very well, but neither could Carole Channing and that
didn't stop her."
Gossett believes arts are crucial to Lincoln. "They are a part of
the atmosphere of diversity and interest that is so important to a
community," she said.
Although Jean considers herself one of the "white-haired
polyester group," a great deal of her interest is toward promoting
the arts among the younger generation. She is encouraged by the
resurrection of theater at the junior high and a new jazz band at
Lincoln College that she says is outstanding. She also gives two
personal theater scholarships to students attending Lincoln College
to encourage that next generation to find the love and joy that she
has found in performing and presenting.
Twenty-one-year-old Brandon Davis worked with Jean, and his
comments show that when Jean says she doesn't put ages on people,
she means it. "Jean was the president of Lincoln Community Theatre a
few years ago when I did 'Pirates of Penzance,'" he said. "It is
amazing to me how hands-on she is. Even if she's not directing, or
doesn't have anything concretely to do with the production, she is
always there, always ready to work, and she's always willing to get
her hands dirty, and she does it with great enthusiasm."
Besides LCT, which went on hiatus for this year, Gossett is also
involved with the Lincoln Community Concert Association and the
area's music society.
Jean sees the LCT coming back strong and soon. "The dynamics have
changed," she said. "Young people have after-hours jobs with erratic
hours that make it hard for them to commit to a rehearsal schedule.
But I am very encouraged by the interest and support that we (LCT)
are getting, and we are getting new people involved to take the helm
and restructure it by the end of the year."
In the meantime, Jean will go about always being on hand to
support, help or be actively involved with any group of any age who
is striving to bring the arts to Lincoln.
It is for this lifelong commitment to helping add this important
part of the artistic human element to our community that we're
turning the stage lights down low and spotlighting Jean Gossett as
this week's Personality of the Week.
Nila Smith contributed to this