Remembering Boyne’s Jill Crissman

jill crissman web


I used to watch the cartoon “Beetlejuice” on TV when I was little.

While it’s an interesting way to start a column, my reasoning will be plain in a moment.

The main character, when finding herself in a bind, would mutter “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” to herself, at which time, the hero of the show would swoop in and make everything bearable yet again.

Well, as I’ve shared before, I was picked on when I was young because I was typically the smaller kid.

During my year of Kindergarten, when I found myself in trouble, I’d whisper to myself, “Jilaine, Jilaine, Jilaine” as I’d seen done on the cartoon. I was referring to Jill Crissman, the playground monitor who had become one of my many protectors from being pushed down in the snow.


Well, after a long battle with cancer, Jill Crissman passed away in the early morning hours of April 20.

I know many others join me in my heartbreak, because I later became friends with her son and saw quite a lot of her.

As for what I know of her, I know she fought cancer for many years and was a regular participant in the Relay for Life events in the area.

I know kids in the surrounding houses thought of her as a second mother and knew they could always run there if they were in trouble.

As I read her obituary, pieces came together. Jill was born on December 12, 1956, to parents Larry and Hellen Fineout, and married Dennis Crissman on May 24, 1980.

She was strong in her faith, being a part of Walloon Lake Community Church for 26 years. She worked as a Paraprofessional at Boyne City Schools, devoting 24 years of her life to helping children much like she helped me. She leaves behind a loving family and many friends.

She is survived by her husband Dennis Alan Crissman; children Dennis Alan II and wife (Sarah) Crissman of Holly Springs, North Carolina, Monica Lynn and wife (Bria) Marcelo of Iowa City, Iowa, Evan Ira Crissman of Boyne City Michigan. Daughter of the heart Maggie and husband Josh Pezzullo of Elk Rapids, Michigan; granddaughter Sydney Crissman. Grand Daughters of the heart Morgan and Nola May Pezzullo, Rebekah and Hannah Bearss. Grand Sons of the heart: Brennen Pezzullo and Zachariah Bearss. Mother Hellen Fineout of Tustin, Michigan; beloved Aunt Barb Fineout of Valdosta, Georgia; siblings Pattie and husband Bob Towne of Boyne City, Michigan, Jackie and husband Doug Fitzgerald of Big Rapids, Michigan, Larry and wife Kim Fineout of Seminole, Florida.

Jill was preceded in death by her father Larry Ace Fineout; sister Monica Lynn Fineout; and brother Kenneth James Fineout.

That’s not all, either. Her legacy will live on in the hundreds of kids who she helped, whether learning to read or making sure they didn’t get beat up.

“She was one of the sweetest, most giving women I knew,” said 2005 BCHS Graduate Ashly Smith. “Supportive and like a second mother to many of us in school, myself included. I regret that our paths didn’t cross again after I left school.”

Her passion for those who were weak or in-need astounded me.

Her participation in Relay for Life encouraged the many who fought a battle with cancer much like hers, and even in her passing, she worked to protect others.

She asked that memorial contributions be made to the Walloon Lake Community Church Benevolent Fund, a fund to help families in need.

She also wanted to take the time to thank her church group family and the doctors and nurses at Karmonos Cancer Institute and McLaren Hospital of Petoskey.

The funny thing is that if she read this, I suspect she wouldn’t take the credit I’m trying so hard to give her.

She’d talk about how God leads people to do good things, and she’s an instrument for him.

Regardless, I have a lot to thank her for, because she’s always managed to show up and make me smile whenever life got rough.

Thank-you Jill for your hard work.

Thank-you for being my protector when I needed one. Thank-you for being that person that appeared at just the right time, even though I now know it wasn’t because I whispered your name three times. We’re all grateful and we miss you dearly.