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Perkins Center Co-Founder Was 'a Pretty Amazing Woman'

Jean Gaasch, 82, passed away at her Moorestown home last weekend. For 40 years, she helped build and strengthen the nonprofit Perkins Center for the Arts.

Jean Gaasch, one of a handful of people who led the charge to found the Perkins Center for the Arts roughly 40 years ago, died on Saturday at her home at the age of 82.

Gaasch, a Moorestown resident for more than four decades, served as acting director before the Center had such a position, according to board member Patricia Finio.

“She was a diligent worker for the founding and survival of Perkins,” said Finio. “We better hope her spirit remains among us ... We need people who will stand up for the enrichment of the community.”

Perkins' current executive director, Alan Willoughby, said that even in her later years, Gaasch continued to have an impact on the arts center “in her own quiet way.”

A couple years ago, he said, she brought in a collection of historic items—photos, notecards, etc.—that had belonged to the Perkins and D’Olier families.

“Even though the organization continues to grow and evolve, if you don’t have founders, you don’t have an organization,” said Willoughby. “She was a pretty amazing woman.”

Fellow Perkins co-founder Sally Mumma Harral also passed away last May. Harral and Gaasch helped rescue the Perkins building—now known as Strawbridge Mansion—along with Frank Keenan and Louis Matlack back in the ‘70s. At the time, the township, which still owns the property, was considering selling or demolishing the building.

Finio said, “It’s sad to see these people leave us, because they cleaned toilets and scrubbed paint to keep (the township) from tearing that building down.”

Gaash was also involved in the community in a number of other ways, including as a columnist for the Moorestown Chronicle, a writer for various newspapers and a teacher in the Moorestown School System for more than 25 years.

She is survived by her daughters, Karen Hartnett (Ken), of Tabernacle; and Laura Gaasch, of Moorestown; her son, William, of Sarasota, FL; and grandchildren, Kelly, Kaitlin and Ashlee.

Per Gaasch's wishes, her funeral services and interment will both be private.

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