Jenny Hampe’s Journey

At Staples, Jenny Hampe was a disciple of Jim Wheeler. The popular art teacher advised her against art school though, warning, “It will ruin you.”

So after graduating in 1983, Jenny headed to New York University — for film.

Young Jenny Hampe.

In her senior year she moved to Kentucky, to study with Mike Skop — Wheeler’s own mentor.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Jenny says. She dropped out of NYU, and — she thought — left Westport and the East Coast behind.

She was drawn to “very remote, windswept, lonely, cold, isolated northern places, for philosophical retreats.” Jenny says.

She lived on the northwest coast of Scotland, and an island off Maine. Every once in a while though, she returned home. When she did, Soup’s On — the friendly, funky Main Street restaurant — always welcomed her back with work.

During one of those interludes, she met a customer wearing a Norwegian sweater. He lived in Weston, but was a legit Scandinavian. They fell in love, went to Norway, got married at Norfield Church, and moved back to his home country.

He went to organic farming school. They found a farm on a fjord. Accessible only by boat, there was sun less than 6 months a year. The nearest village was over 5 miles away.

The fjord farm.

It was quite a place. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. National Geographic called it one of the most beautiful spots on earth. “We were there in the wilderness,” Jenny says.

The 2 suburbanites with a small flock of sheep, some wild boars and chickens learned as they lived. Soon, Jenny had a child.

Their 2 1/2 years on the fjord farm ended when her husband got in a fistfight with their 75-year-old neighbor.

Jenny found an island for sale, elsewhere in Norway. With a loan from Westport Bank & Trust, they bought it. They lived there for 7 1/2 more years. She had 2 more babies.

There were Jersey cows, 75 sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and rabbits. Like the other farm, this one had minimal electricity and plumbing.

“It was another amazing chapter,” Jenny recalls.

Jenny Hampe loved her farm life.

She got divorced, and married another Norwegian. Soon, Jenny was living on her 3rd farm. It lacked road access, electricity and running water.

She was there for another 10 years. She had her 4th child there too.

Jenny Hampe with her “kids” — human and animal.

Then she had a midlife crisis. “It’s a complex story,” she says. “I was homesick for my homeland.”

Which is why Jenny now lives in … Brooklyn.

She’s an artist there, working in collage and textiles. (She learned that craft while sewing her own and her family’s clothes in Norway). She also makes memory jugs.

Jenny Hampe today.

And 4 days a week, she commutes to Westport. She’s got “an amazing job” here, as an estate gardener.

“It’s confusing to some people,” she admits. “I dress in wooden shoes and aprons, with dresses down to my ankles. But I’m a New Yorker.”

She looks back with gratitude on her life tending goats and making cheese. But, she realizes, “New York was always in my blood. And Westport is my home.”

Her 4 children — now in their teens and 20s — spent last summer with her. They all shared a 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“They love New York too,” she says.

So what does she make of all this?

“My life is exciting,” she concludes. “I’m a Jenny of all trades.”

16 responses to “Jenny Hampe’s Journey

  1. A great story, Dan…On many accounts!

  2. Michael Calise

    Amazing story

  3. I want her to write a memoir.
    ADW Staples 1956

  4. Peter Gambaccini

    What an extraordinary woman. Great telling of the tale, Dan.

  5. James Honeycutt

    Dan, I had Jenny Hampe at the very beginning my teaching career at Coleytown Junior High School back in the late 1970’s. Fun piece for me to read and quite a life story!

  6. Lynn Turin Pokorny

    Oh the places we’ll go!
    Thank you for sharing this story. It was a great read.

  7. Wow. This is on the short list of the most fascinating stories I have read on “06880.” One question for Jenny: just from a noise perspective, what was it like adapting from the peace & quiet of a remote Norwegian farm to the din of city life?

    • I really can’t answer for Jen but I imagine she adapts well…we are both very adaptable people but considering our upbringing, you wouldn’t think we could. We were born with silver spoons in our mouths. Is it a wonder why we both went to diverse places to live? Nah…. Our parents instilled love and empathy in us…therefore….we both looked for places to extend our love to others and enjoy the beauty of this world!

  8. That is my SISTER!! I am so proud of her! She ended up in Norway and I ended up in Oklahoma! LOVE YOU JEN!

  9. UNESCO World Heritage Sites — visit as many as possible in your lifetime.

  10. Sharon Paulsen

    Wow, what an interesting story!

    Awesome read!

    Thanks, Dan!

  11. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    A woman after my own heart.

  12. Peter Gambaccini

    The smell and taste of the BigTip’s steak sandwich is a sense memory that lingers with me to this day. As for Chubby’s, I had one of the briefest employments in the history of the place. I started in the summer, working both at the Post Road spot and at the beach. I was the most recent hire, and on rainy days, of which there were too many then, Chubby would send me home, without pay. I lasted about four weeks.