Strong is Beautiful Makeover

By Leanna Gerry
Photography by Cami McElmury, Blue Jean Photography

Tears filled the eyes of Jayne Pompeian when she learned that the stylists of Rocco Altobelli Salons had chosen her as their strong is beautiful makeover model. “I don’t think I am that strong,” she confesses—which is a sure sign that she is. At 62, Pompeian can say that she has been a loving wife, caring mother and doting grandmother to her three “darling little boys.” Besides spending quality time with her family, the retired nurse enjoys playing the piano, singing, cooking and baking, knitting, crafting, going out to movies and sometimes simply staying in to watch Turner Classics. Pompeian also appreciates a bit of culture in her life, so she occasionally indulges in travel, plays or a concert or two.  


Pompeian describes her existence as a “wonderful life,” referencing her favorite movie starring Jimmy Stewart. She first met her husband, Ed, after he received a kidney transplant at Methodist Hospital where she worked. The couple married soon after and began to develop Ed’s dream-child—the Gift of Life Transplant House—that provides recovering transplant patients an accommodating place to stay during their time in Rochester. The organization is still going strong and is set to celebrate its 35th anniversary this year. 

When Pompeian’s family eventually grew to number four children, she left her nursing job to be what she dubs a “full-time mom.” While she continued to volunteer at the hospital (which she still does), she turned her attention to raising her family and caring for Ed when he experienced bouts of illness. “My life really has revolved around Ed and our family,” Pompeian confides. “I am blessed.” When her children grew older, Pompeian was able to enjoy some world traveling with her husband. The couple also began to spend their winters in sunny Florida. 


“What a wonderful life!” she repeats as she thinks back over the years. However, her contented attitude does not mean that Pompeian has escaped the hardships of life. After living such an amazing 38 years with Ed, it was hard for Pompeian to let go when he passed away from health issues in July 2019. “He was the love of my life,” Pompeian says. “I miss him so much.” Pompeian’s children have now become all the more important to her. “I’m fortunate to have three of them living close to me in Rochester,” she says. “Not a week goes by that we are not together sharing a meal (or two).”

Her wish for the future, Pompeian confides, is to simply keep building on “the legacy” that she and her husband began in the Gift of Life Transplant House. While that is a priority, Pompeian also wants to continue to cherish the memories she makes with her grandchildren and other family members and to be thankful for each day. She of all people knows that time together passes much more quickly than any of us would like.  


According to her friends, Pompeian remains a caring, bubbly, positive, giving, creative and strong personality through good times and bad. Even her salon stylists can’t help but notice her happy heart. “She is calm under pressure” and a “very loving and giving person,” they conclude. “Classy and composed in all situations.” 

Pompeian credits her faith, family and solid upbringing for her positivity. “It’s in my genes,” she concludes. Her mental and physical routine also help her to cope with the stresses brought on by everyday life. She instructs, “Believe in yourself, take a deep breath and keep going down the road. Make the best of every day. Make your bed and put on your face. Smile. Be positive and give back. Know that you are loved. Have faith in God and never forget.” 

Leanna Gerry is an intern writer for Rochester Women magazine and a senior at Saint Mary’s University Minnesota.