The matriarch of early American road racing, and a leader in the creation of the International Motor Racing Research Center, Jean Argetsinger, died last week of natural causes at her home in Burdett, New York. She was 97.
Together with her husband and partner Cameron, who predeceased her in 2008, Jean (above, with Sir Jackie Stewart at the IMRRC’s 1999 opening) was central to the re-birth of road racing in the USA after World War II. Together they helped establish Watkins Glen as one of the world’s premier racing venues, with Jean handling hospitality, publicity and community involvement for the town and its racing circuit.
In the early years of racing in Watkins Glen, the Argetsingers welcomed drivers from around the world to parties at their home. In 1958 she established the Paddock Club, now known as the Glen Club, as “a civilized retreat for drivers’ wives and visiting celebrities.”
“I never thought racing would be my life,” she said in 1999 when introducing a film documentary about the history of Watkins Glen racing. “I don’t know much about cars, but I do know about the people who drive them.”
“Jean will be missed by the entire racing industry, as the matriarch of racing at Watkins Glen and for her support of the racing community as a whole,” noted Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, “What Jean and Cameron accomplished in our small town will always be relished.”
While raising nine children, Argetsinger also helped build the foundation of a strong Schuyler County community as a member and leader of numerous organizations. In 1996, she joined John Saunders, then president of WGI, and other community leaders to discuss the best way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of racing two years later. She was president of the Watkins Glen Public Library board at that time.
The work of the committee led to the creation of the IMRRC, which opened in June 1999. The Argetsingers were honored in 2009 with a Watkins Glen International Legend of the Glen Award. To her family and countless friends in the sport Vintage Racecar extends its sincerest condolences.