June 22, 1918 – May 29, 2017
Jean was born on her parents’ homestead near Merid, SK, the fourth of six daughters. All her life, she treasured rich memories of strong family ties, outdoor work and enjoyment of the farm animals, horses and riding in particular. Being bright, she was pushed through school and graduated from grade 12 just as she turned 16. She attended Normal School and taught at a one room school where she met her future husband, Bill, who claimed he quit school in grade 11 in order to date the teacher. They married in 1940 and raised daughters Wendie and Denise on the farm 20 miles south of Eatonia across from Leader on the north side of the S. Saskatchewan River. Always hard working, they were a conscientious farming team. Stewardship of the land was of paramount importance. Her garden produced welcomed fresh vegetables, iris among other flowers, and most important to her, California poppies, the original seed brought to Saskatchewan from her mother’s family home near San Jose, CA. Jean was passionate about the river hills and coulees stretching from her farm yard. They, and the wildlife, provided inspiration for much of her writing. After her girls left home, she devoted increasing time to creating poetry, short stories and articles based largely on her research of early prairie life. She was published mainly in prairie-based magazines and anthologies, also in a Peter Gzowski collection and was read on CBC radio. She won numerous awards. She lost Bill to a sudden heart attack in 1986 shortly after retiring from active farming. In these contrasting circumstances she established a new base in B.C. becoming an active part of the Good Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran congregation, made many friends, and volunteered at the Library. In her seventies she took up a long-held interest, weaving. Always, she continued writing. Until the age of 89 she lived what she called a double life, dividing her time between the farm and her B.C. home. Her family wants to acknowledge and thank Jean’s sister-in-law Anne Reinhardt and the many neighbours and friends who made it possible for her to return to the farm for six months of the year as she increasingly needed more support. In time Jean moved into Assisted Living in Berwick in Comox, then in Nanaimo, and finally into Care there. The family is immensely grateful for the respect and love she was shown in these later years by staff and residents at Berwick, and for visits from many valued friends, the earlier pastoral care of the ministers in Comox and in the last several years of Pastor Terry Richardson in Nanaimo. Jean is survived by Wendie (Bill) and Denise (Ron), sister Carmen, grandchildren Craig, Jeremy (Diane), Mikael and Paul, and great grandchildren Devin, Maya, Gavin, Naomi, Will, Olivia and Simon. How she loved us all. A memorial service with family members participating and featuring a selection of Jean’s poetry in praise of the prairies and prairie people was held on June 11 at Hope Lutheran Church in Nanaimo. If anyone wishes to make a gift, a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society or the CNIB would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Sensing a storm,
Eager to share it,
I hurried to the hills.
The sun, hesitant on the horizon,
Poked red fingers toward the black-rimmed clouds
Probed here and there
And slid from view.
Shivering in expectation,
Running, I embraced the night.
There was this sudden rush of wind
That set the tall grass fretting,
The nighthawk slicing through the dusky light.
As I stumbled over prairie sod
Lightning jerked across the grumbling heavens,
While in between the lightning stabs
Darkness pushed down.
Having topped a knoll
I sprawled across a cool gray boulder,
Panting, perfectly content.
With gentle rain drops tapping, tapping…
I lay and held the moment.
I hold it still.