Jeanne LaChance with daughters, Christina, Leigh, Kelley and Danielle. Contributed family photo

Jeanne LaChance, owner of the popular JJ’s Eatery Too in Old Orchard Beach, died June 2 after a brief illness. She was 74.

Two weeks before she died, Mrs. LaChance was taking phone orders for curbside delivery at the restaurant. Her daughter, Kelley Campbell, who works at JJ’s, said her mother was concerned her business would not survive the summer because of business restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campbell said her mother developed an ulcer, which punctured through her stomach and into her intestine. She developed an infection and died two weeks later.

“She never had these issues before COVID,” her daughter said. “She was amazing. She was full of life.” Campbell broke down in tears. “Everyone at the restaurant is basically family to her, the customers and employees.”

Mrs. LaChance was remembered by loved ones Monday as a strong and independent woman who had a tremendous impact on people’s lives.

She opened her first restaurant, JJ’s Eatery in Old Orchard Beach, in 1998. A decade later, she opened a second location, JJ’s Eatery Too. She turned the first location into a Mexican food restaurant, Ole JJ’s, operated both restaurants for a brief time, then sold Ole JJ’s.

Mrs. LaChance was a fixture at JJ’s Eatery Too, a popular restaurant, known for its homemade food and friendly atmosphere.

She was a waitress, a hostess and bookkeeper. Her daughter, Campbell, is the chef. She talked about the year her mother opened the first JJ’s restaurant, where she prepared homemade meatloaf, roasted turkeys and made homemade stuffing. The pancakes, one of JJ’s most popular items, are from a family recipe.

“She was told when she first came into this town that she would never make it. She proved them wrong,” her daughter said. “Not everyone wants a slice of pizza or French fries or fried dough. Some people want a home cooked meal or healthier food.”

Mrs. LaChance was known for creative ideas that drew crowds to the restaurant. She hosted local musicians five days a week and every third Saturday, she held a pajama breakfast. Families would come wearing pajamas, and the waitresses wore curlers in their hair.

“The families loved it,” said daughter Leigh Carney of Portland. In her early years, Mrs. LaChance lived in Portland and worked at Moran’s Market on Forest Avenue.

In addition to Campbell and Carney, Mrs. LaChance is survived by daughters Christina Fairweather of Scarborough and Danielle Foss of Saco.

She taught her girls the importance of giving back to the community. Carney remembered when she was 5 years old, her mother organized a carnival in their backyard featuring pony rides, games and food. The family raised $200 for the former Woodfords School for Trainable Children in Portland, according to a 1972 Press Herald article.

At Thanksgiving, Mrs. LaChance opened her restaurant for people who didn’t have a place to go. For Christmas, she raised money to provide gifts for families in need, Carney said.

“She had the biggest caring and giving heart,” Carney said. “Mom was always thinking of others. She just gave to everybody, everybody. Her hands were never idle. She was finishing one fundraiser and planning the next one. She spent more time and money that she probably brought in, but it was just so important to her.”

Campbell remembered walking around the neighborhood with a can collecting donations on Labor Day. She thinks it was for a fundraiser hosted by WGME.

“When we were done at the end of the day, we would all dump our money into this big tank,” Campbell recalled. “It was something we had to do, contribute back to society. She taught us at a young age to help the less fortunate. She was always raising money for something, donating to any cause she could.”

Mrs. LaChance worked for a time for Business Digest Magazine. She served as president of the V.F.W. Ladies Auxiliary, was active with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and also served with other local organizations.

She was a loving wife to Ronald LaChance for 25 years. The couple lived in Old Orchard Beach, and he remains a fixture at the restaurant.

“They respected each other and loved each other so much,” Campbell said. “They supported each other so much. They were the perfect pair together.”

Campbell said she will miss the time she and her mother spent at the restaurant talking.

“We were a team. We were each other’s right hand,” she said, breaking down in tears. “She just … I can’t explain how many lives she touched.”

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