Jeanette Shell was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on June 10, 1930. She, her parents, Cornelius and Tommie Lee Harris, and siblings Bernice, Doris, and Cornelius, moved to Vauxhall in the fall of 1937, in time to start the school year. Jeanette was educated in the Union Township school system, graduating from Union High School fourth in her class, in 1948.
On January 3, 1949, Jeanette became the first Black Librarian of the Union Public Library. She worked at the Main Library in the Circulation Department. Jeanette also worked at the Vauxhall Branch Library under Mrs. Elizabeth Luycx, who she knew well from being a regular patron throughout her school years. Besides being her boss, Mrs. Luycx trained Jeanette well, and was a great friend. Jeanette worked many years in the Reference department at both libraries. Mrs. Luycx became sick and retired. Jeanette was promoted and appointed to run the Vauxhall Library. She was privileged to work with Judith Murphy, who also worked under Mrs. Luycx. Jeanette and Mrs. Murphy were a great team, working together for the next 35 years. She was honored for 40 years of service by her peers and the community.
Jeanette met her husband John Shell through his brother, Edward, and her sister, Bernice. They were married on June 24, 1961. John and Jeanette traveled extensively to Europe, Canada, throughout the United States. They were married for 40 years and shared many happy memories together until his passing in 2001.
Jeanette retired from the Union Public Library in 1994 and was honored for 45 years of service by the Union Public Library, Congressman Donald Payne, Union Township Committee, Newark Business Administrator Glen Grant, Union County Freeholders, and other dignitaries.
In 1998, Jeanette started the Jeanette Shell Book Scholarship Fund, that awards book scholarships to deserving college bound students in the community. In 2011, Jeanette received a plaque from the New Jersey Chapter of the Florida A&M University Alumni Association for her dedication and commitment as a Librarian and Community Leader.
Jeanette has been a proud member of the Bethel A.M.E. Church, Vauxhall, NJ for 75-plus years.
Jeanette had many hobbies. They included word puzzle games, reading, watching QVC, the Food Channel and news programs, cooking and baking, playing solitaire, and talking to friends. She was very philanthropic, donating money to many charities.
Jeanette is preceded in death by her parents, Cornelius and Tommie Lee Harris; siblings, Bernice Shell, Doris Walker and Cornelius “Sonny” Harris; four brothers-in-law, Theodore Shell, Edward Shell, Robert N. Shell, and Willie J. Walker; nephew. Robert T. Shell; cousin, Marie Wilson; and special brother, Odius Cannon.
She leaves to cherish her memories, sister-in-law, Marion Shell; three nieces, Ana Shell, Delinda L. Baker, and Cheryl D. Walker; four nephews, Thomas E. Shell, Cornelius D. Harris (Annette), David J. Shell and Craig J. Walker (Sharron); great nephews, Paul Shell (Linda), Robert Shell (Veda), Jr., Keith Avant, Darrell Harris, John Shell, and Justin Walker; dear friends, Shirley Bolding, Kathleen Baker, Blossie Cohen, Sharon Cannon and a host of relatives and friends