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Shelter Island Reporter obituary (complete): Colette Guillet Roe

Colette Guillet Roe touched many lives because she was a smart woman, a devoted family member, a quiet leader,  a trusted friend, and a brave lady. She passed away on February 5, 2023, at 85.

Born in Manhattan on April 22, 1937, she was the daughter of René and Yvonne Guillet of Queens and Shelter Island, N.Y.

She was predeceased by her husband John E. Roe Sr., and by her older brother Gilbert Marcel Gabriel August Guillet. She is survived by two children, John E. Roe, Jr. (Debra) and Karen E. Roe (Mark A. Glueckert); six grandchildren: John E. Roe III, Christopher Roe, Elizabeth Roe, Maggie Hayes, John Hayes Jr., and Molly Hayes; four great-grandchildren, along with many nieces and nephews.

Colette cherished her French roots. Her father René Théophile Guillet was a talented jewelry designer in Paris. He was wooed to New York in 1930 by Harry Winston to fashion more modern styles. Later, he opened his own shop to create settings for Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and more. Many will remember the wonderful frog pin Colette always wore.

Réne married Yvonne Penouil and moved to Flushing, Queens. French friends there urged René to bring his son from a previous marriage to America to safeguard him against the growing Nazi threats in Paris. Twelve-year-old Gilbert, escorted by his grandmother, arrived in New York on May 1, 1937.

This was the same day baby Colette was released from the hospital. What a homecoming they had.

Neighbor and jeweler Gustave Bernier convinced René to summer with him on Shelter Island. Gilbert had enlisted in the Army to fight the Germans. So, René with Yvonne and 5-year-old Colette, drove to Greenport and boarded the North Ferry. They could smell and see the smoldering waterfront Prospect Hotel. Scheduled to open the next day, it had caught fire in the early morning. Colette never forgot that first image of Shelter Island on June 26, 1942.

Renting first, René then built a small house overlooking Dering Harbor to spend more time on the Island. Colette loved life divided time between Queens and Shelter Island. School was in Queens:  P.S. 107, Bayside High School, and she earned a B.A. in Psychology at Queens College. Then weekends, vacations and summer were on Shelter Island.

Colette got a job when she was 14 at Shelter Island’s Peconic Lodge’s gift shop. After work, she often walked along Shore Road to meet friends at Louie’s Beach. One afternoon, a young man in a station wagon stopped to ask if she would like a ride. Since others were in the car, Colette said “yes.” That young man was John E. Roe, Sr.

His family not only lived in Queens, but also owned Westmoreland, a farm off West Neck Road. Colette and John dated about six years before tying the knot at the Ram’s Head Inn in 1957. They settled in San Diego, Calif., after John was commissioned in the Navy. However, she returned home to give birth to John, Jr., in 1958, and then returned.

When finished in 1960 with their Navy service, the young Roes returned to New York, so John could join the family’s underwriting business.

In 1962, Colette’s daughter Karen was born. She was thrilled when Karen recently moved back to Westmoreland to live next door with Mark, her horses and dog — joining brother John Jr. and his family who lived nearby. Colette always was surrounded by Roes of all ages.

With a French flair, Colette delighted in cooking. Besides Bastille Day, she created parties, clam bakes, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. She fundraised for Mashomack Preserve’s summer soirees and likewise supported Eastern Long Island Hospital. 

When back in Queens, Colette hosted functions for Queens political candidates, even running a campaign or two. Her giving spirit also led her to support and raise money for Flushing Hospital Medical Center with events and its cookbook, the American Cancer Society, and more.

Colette was her loving husband’s partner for nearly 62 years. When John Sr. named his boat  Caviar, Colette added a Caviar license plate to her station wagon. The Caviar car identified Colette’s whereabouts, like collecting her reserved newspapers at the pharmacy or attending mass at Our Lady of the Isle.

Colette often was amazed when asked, “why did you pick caviar for your license plate?” Her answer was simple: “Like Roe itself, it happily represents parties, progeny and people.”