SNOW HILL — One of Greene County’s favorite daughters was laid to rest Monday.
Jean Rouse Preston, a state legislator for 20 years, was buried at Fairview Cemetery in La Grange following a service at the chapel at Taylor-Tyson Funeral Service in Snow Hill. She died Jan. 10 from complications from a fall she suffered while on vacation in Waterbury, Conn.
Preston, from Emerald Isle, most recently represented Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties in the N.C. Senate. She had decided against seeking re-election in 2012 to spend more time with her family.
Before retiring and moving to Emerald Isle — starting a career in politics — Preston was an educator. She graduated from East Carolina University in 1957 with a degree in business education, and taught business classes in Wilson and Greene counties, as well as Lenoir Community College. She later returned to ECU to receive her Master’s degree in education in 1973.
Over the course of her career, she became Greene County director of reading for K-12 students and the program administrator for children with special needs.
“We knew that we could always have her ear,” said Patrick Miller, Greene County superintendent of schools. “She would always listen, and she was very responsive. We would always, certainly, have something to talk about — even if we didn’t agree on the issues we could talk about home. I would add that there were very few times we didn’t agree on the issues. She was a very generous person. She was always quick with a smile and made you feel right at home.”
Miller gave special thanks to the Rouse family foundation, of which Preston was a board member.
“The Rouse family has a foundation, and they were very generous with donating back to the Greene County community,” Miller said. “They were very instrumental and made large donations for the Greene County Parks and Recreation complex, for the new gym floor and for new bleachers in the gym at Greene Central High School.”
He added, “For that, we are more than grateful because there’s no way we could have funded those projects without their help.”
Before retiring, Preston served as the principal and director of education at the Barnes School at the Caswell Developmental Center.
But with retirement and the passing of husband Hugh Forbes Hardy, Preston moved to Carteret County, where she later married retired U.S. Army Col. John Edward Preston. She made her first run for the N.C. House of Representatives in 1992, serving seven terms before being elected to three terms in the N.C. Senate.
“She was helpful to me when I first got in the House,” said N.C. Sen. Louis Pate, who first won election to the House in 1994. “She had served a term or so when I first got there, and she was very friendly towards me and most helpful, helping get my bearings as to what I was supposed to do and how you went about having your influence felt, and that sort of thing. I was lucky enough to be able to follow her over to the Senate and served this most recent term with her.”
Pate said he admired her for her assistance to him and to his campaign, where Preston was “instrumental” to his efforts in Greene County in the 2010 Senate race.
In her six years in the Senate, Preston was the co-chair of the Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education/Higher Education.
“Jean Preston was a pioneer in the field of special education who dedicated her life to ensuring our children have the brightest future possible,” Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement. “As a legislator, Sen. Preston worked tirelessly on education reform and on achieving better results for our students. She was legendary in her district for an amazing work ethic and commitment to providing outstanding constituent service.
“Sen. Preston was a dear friend, and my colleagues and I will miss her greatly.”