Jen was an amazing, inspiring example of love, gentleness, thoughtfulness, kindness, strength and courage, without complaining. The loss of Jen is a shared one by all who knew and loved her. She will be greatly missed by all her friends and family. Along with her proud parents, she also leaves behind her middle sister, Amy Beth Courchesne, who was honored and blessed to be her trusted protector, advocate, and caregiver, and Amy’s husband, Shawn, Jen’s supportive and loving brother-in-law; her adoring youngest sister, Cynthia “Cindy” Carrier and her husband, Marc, along with their children and grandchildren, Jen’s beloved nieces and nephews: Isaiah (and his wife, Judy, with their children, Jimmy and Cynthia), Jonah (and his wife, Christina), Rebekah, Deborah, Hannah, Micah, Jubilee, Enoch, Gideon, Marc Jr., and Joanna. The three sisters had a very special bond and so many wonderful shared memories. Jen was a supportive big sister and friend to both and they affectionately called each other “Sister.”
She leaves behind her special “Uncle Dave” David Gregorski and other loving and supportive aunts and uncles: Edward and Darlene Dion (Aunt Dar and Uncle Ed), Ronald and Judy Gilbert (Aunt Judy and Uncle Ron), and beloved first cousins Eddie Dion, Chris Dion (and his wife LeQuyen, and their daughters Sarah and Julia), Stephanie Palmer (and children Stephon and Trinity), Michael Gilbert (and his wife, Lisa, and children Sean and Bryan), James “Pete” Gilbert (and his wife, Kenda), Nancy Vogan (and her husband, John), and cousin by choice, Deanna Gagnon. She leaves many loved, extended family members locally, as well as her California family. She is predeceased by her beloved and adoring grandparents: maternal grandparents, Frank and Sophie Gregorski (Gram and Grandpa), and her paternal grandparents, Darrell and Julia Stark (Mim and Pop), alongside whom she will be laid to rest.
Jen also leaves behind her stepbrothers and stepsister and their families: Joey and Michele Latina and their son (Nicholas); Anthony and his wife, Maria, and their children (Anthony Jr. and Dominique); Cori and her husband, John Tatro, and children (Nathan, Summer, and Luke), several beloved, long-time, special friends from elementary school and college, including her 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Grace Lyons, and family friend Deepika Reddy; friends from her church, Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden, and the communities in which she lived; several close neighbors at her most recent residence who were devoted friends and “cheerleaders;” and dedicated staff who worked hard to protect Jen’s health and safety; and a special friend Carmel Latta.
Jen was raised in East Hartford, CT. She was a scholar by nature and loved reading from a young age. She had many scholastic honors and achievements. Her teachers adored her. She was a graduate of East Hartford High School in 1988, followed by a hard-earned, dual bachelor of science degree in Biology and Psychology from Wesleyan University in 1992, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Ohio State University in 2001. Twenty years after she published her research, her papers are still being cited as significant findings in the areas of stress biology and neuroscience research. She truly was a major contributor to her lab and the scientific community. She conducted research studies to support ongoing clinical trials for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for several years at her first full-time job prior to graduate school at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Tarrytown, NY, and conducted MS-related research during her postdoctoral work at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where she became a huge Cardinals fan. Jen’s work there directly led to a treatment for MS patients.
Jen’s last career was as the Director of Research Training Programs for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in NY. She was looked up to as an accomplished scientist and role model who provided wise career guidance and used what she learned to increase her already-abundant empathy for and commitment to people living with MS. As Dr. Jennifer Stark, Ph.D. she made an incredible contribution to society and grieved the loss of being able to do so further in her occupational field when her health declined.
She enjoyed being a member of a book club led by her friend, Liz Hall, who was her yoga instructor and who had an integral role in helping her become established in her Meriden community after she moved back to Connecticut from Rye, NY in 2018. Jen was grateful for Liz and her friendship after having to leave behind her life in NY. Jen volunteered at the Friends of the Meriden Public Library. She had a generous heart which included making fleece blankets for Soul Ryeders when she was in Rye, NY and doing more random acts of kindness than we’ll ever know.
Jen enjoyed spending time watching St. Louis Cardinals games with Mom (“Go Cards!”), and spending time with her 11-year-old cats, babies Buddy and Dora, who she was grieved to leave behind. She was a lover of animals and rescued many cats in her lifetime, and had beloved, special past pet cats she rescued: Benedict (Ben), her first baby boy, Maya, Pumpkin, and Vee. She missed Ben to the end. Jen had a love and appreciation for her life and in adulthood also celebrated her half-birthday each year. She loved National Parks and travel. She got to see the Grand Canyon after her battle with lymphoma with a smile nearly as big. Jen and Amy went on many special sister trips together and hoped for more. She immensely enjoyed her flower garden and garden at the grounds of her Meriden residence, inspired by and lovingly started alongside her Uncle Dave.
Jen said during her recent battle that her name, “Stark,” means “strong,” and, “I’m going to live up to my name.” Mission accomplished.
Her memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 25, 2023 at 11:00 am at Center Congregational Church, 474 Broad Street, Meriden, CT followed by a reception. Her burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in her honor and memory to the Sjogren’s Foundation, The Leukemia And Lymphoma Society, or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as well as donating blood or platelets if you’re able, and doing an act of kindness for someone else.
Jen requested face masks be worn during the memorial service, please, for those who may need protection (as she did) and want to attend.