There are many things I could say about a wonderful lady like Jean and at some time in my remaining years I might do just that, but hopefully the following will give the readers an idea of the kind of person I married.

Jean was born December 8, 1929 and passed away June 15,2006. She was a twin that weighed 2 3/4 pounds at birth. Her twin sister, Joan Wise, weighed 2 1/4 pounds. They were named Mary and Martha by Dr. Willis who delivered the babies, but their mother changed their names to Jean and Joan. They were so little that no one expected them to live, but they had a lot of TLC from their mother and grandmother. Their heat was from a fireplace in those days and to keep them warm they used warm bricks wrapped in blankets.

Jean grew up like most of the children in the 30's and 40's during depression years. Things became difficult for the family when her mother and father divorced when they were young girls. Their mother managed with the help of her mother who the girls affectionately called Mama. They also had a younger sister, Ethel Lee, born prior to the divorce. Their mother could not find work for several months, and the twins had to live at a catholic school for awhile until she could find work. Jean said that they were very lonely and became depressed, but they had one another and it was only for a short time. Jean used to say that we were all poor at the time and did not know it and I agreed with her.

She learned to cook, do household chores and shop for food at a very early age. She and her sister were so kind to an elderly lady that had lost her legs and literality crawled around her little house. Even though things were tough at home they always managed to take Granny Oliver some food. She always looked forward to playing cards after school with Grannie. There was a lot of love shared between them during this period of time in her life.

Jean lived next door to Mrs. Morris, who had a tourist home and she looked forward to seeing the "snow birds" each year. The same people would stay with Mrs. Morris each year so they got to know one another really well. She enjoyed having conversations with the winter visitors until they moved further south to warmer weather. During the summer months she could hear Mrs. Morris' daughter, Elvira, playing the piano since the windows were up and the houses were so close together. She would shout from her bedroom to Elvira to play special songs and sometimes Jean would have to hum the song because she played by ear.

This is a little story about a bantam rooster they had that crowed so loud he was a nuisance. The neighbors complained so much that it became necessary to quiet the 'old red rooster". He was served for dinner that night, but no one could eat, even though it was a special treat to have chicken.

Jean grew up to be a beautiful young lady and she was very popular. Everyone wanted her to enter beauty contest, but she refused. Finally she consented to entering a pageant to promote Levy count watermelons and won handily. She would not enter future contest because she was very uncomfortable parading in front of a panel of judges in a swim suit.

Time passed and her mother landed a good job with the industrial commission in Tallahassee. She traveled to her job each week with a friend and came home on the week ends. This meant that Mama had the responsibility of caring for the girls. It also meant that they could use the family car to run errands, purchase food etc. Jean had a good friend that knew how to disconnect speedometer cables so her mother could not keep track of the mileage the car was used during her absence. Her friends would pitch in and buy gas and they would travel to Gainesville just for fun and look for boys. One should never under-estimate the ingenuity of teenagers.

Jean graduated from Williston High School and was lucky to land a good job with Southern Bell Telephone Co. in Gainesville, Fl. as a long distance operator. She loved her job and continued to help support her family and buy clothes for her younger sister that was still in high school. Joan was now married and had started a family. In the summer of 1950 we met at Glen Springs in Gainesville, Fl while swimming one hot July afternoon. I was a student at U of F and had the summer off from school, but worked part time for my Dad. It was my turn to have a week end off so a group of friends decided to go to Daytona Beach for the week end. Jean and I had been dating so I ask her to go with me, but she refused since she had to work. I did not want to miss the trip so I ask another girl and she accepted. Little did I know that Jean had listened in on my conversation with the other girl and heard me break the date (keep in mind that she worked for the telephone co.). She got busy and traded days off with another operator and called me to say she could go to the beach. I called the other girl and canceled the date, which I did not want to do, but there was no doubt in my mind about Jean being my choice. We had a wonderful time and she did not tell me this story until after we were married. I am so happy things turned out the way they did because we knew we were in love and never looked back with any doubt.

We married November 22, 1950 and Jean helped me financially to graduate from U of F. She gave birth to our first child, Linda Kay, October 1, 1951. A little side note about insurance to pay the hospital: I did not have insurance as a student, but Jean had good coverage with her employer. Her friends had been after her to include me on the policy, but she did not get in a hurry to make the change. Finally after prodding by her very wise supervisor she made the change and shortly after we learned she was expecting. We were nervous about the timing and the Lord was looking after us because the effective date for pregnancies was October 1st and Kay was born about 4 hours after midnight on the 1st.

After a couple of years I graduated from college in 1952. The Korean war was still going on and since I had taken advanced ROTC. I had to report for duty at Ft. Benning, Ga. and then to Ft. Sill Oklahoma. I was in school for about 4 months and after graduation I received my orders for the far east command which meant Korea. Jean and I decided we wanted another child so she was pregnant prior to me leaving and we had a son born November 23, 1953, while I was over seas. She did a terrific job taking care of both children while i was away. The war ended and fortunately I was in category 4 that made me eligible for early discharge. I flew back home to be with my family and I will never forget the scene when I departed from the plane at Tallahassee, Fl airport. She looked so beautiful to me standing on the tarmac holding Kay's hand with Broward in her arms. She wore a navy blue dress with a white Grace Kelly hat and she was a knock out for sure.

We started planning where I would work and discussions led to where we would live. The three places we did not want to live were Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami. As luck would have it we went to Tampa first and we loved it. Jean and I became active in the church and accepted Jesus as our personal Savior and we were baptized together( O Happy Day). Our next move was to Jacksonville and we liked this move also. Our third and youngest child, Joni Dianne, was born September 29,1957. Jean was an exceptional Mom and she had the patience of Job.

My young son tested her patience many times. On one occasion when he was about four he decided to paint the outside of our house in Jacksonville. This probably never would have happened if his Dad not left the green paint roller on the back porch. The house was white so we ended up with a green and white combination on the back side of our home. One day for some unknown reason he decided to pick up Joni and was in the process of handing her to Kay when Jean walked in and calmly took her from his little arms and she did not scold him on these occasions. Broward was always doing things that would ordinarily get most little ones in trouble, but Jean took it in stride. He put rocks in the gas tank of the car and it had to be taken to be repaired. When something went wrong around the house her favorite expression was" what has Broward done now"? She was such a good Mom and exercised a tremendous amount of patience.

Our next move was to Lakeland and fortunately we never made it to Miami. We loved Lakeland and after living there for awhile we built a beautiful split level home in the Highlands. Jean enjoyed this very much because Broward could have a horse and our girls could have their own room. She would often laugh when she thought about Kay taking her Mustang for a spin through the grapefruit groves with Joni hanging on the trunk for dear life. Kay had just gotten her license and she knew where the keys were and this little trick was played out when we were having dinner in Tampa. The funny part of this scenario was Joni felt guilty and she would always tell her Mom what happened.

During these times Jean was involved in Teaching Sunday school and working with the campfire girls, PTA, girl scouts and baseball plus overnight camping. She loved spending time at Lundy's camp in Auburndale, Fl. We had a small trailer on the lake and spent many week ends there during the summer. She learned to play bridge while we were living in Lakeland and enjoyed having groups over when I had to travel out of town on business.

Jean was an avid reader. We have quite a library of books she has read. She was a daily bible reader and we discussed the scriptures on many occasions. She enjoyed teaching Sunday school and her favorite evangelists were Billy Graham and Charles Stanley. When our children were younger we went to Niagra Falls, Washington D.C. and Hershey Pa. camping. We also camped along the James River and in the Smokies. It amazed me how well she planned our meals and how good she cooked under camping conditions. I recall one time when we were in the Smokies and decided to have our picnic lunch along the side of the road. Jean had the lunch ready on the ground and out of know where here comes Smoky the bear. Jean made one gigantic sweep of our lunch and had it in the car before the bear got to our area. Smoky seemed baffled at how fast she moved our lunch to safety.

We moved to Fernandina Beach in 1968 where all three of our children graduated from high school. Jean made a lot of good lasting friendships here. She continued playing bridge and staying involved in school activities. She and I became involved in local politics and helped a friend get elected to superintendent of public instructions. She had an opportunity to become a secretary in the school system and thoroughly enjoyed the work. Her bridge group was still active and she definitely knew what was going on at school. Our oldest daughter was married here and Jeanís friends did a super job in helping with Kay's wedding. These same friends were there to help several years later when our youngest daughter, Joni, was married several years later.

We moved to Leesburg, Fl. in 1976 and we were fortunate to have a nice home on the golf course. This is where Jean learned to play golf and she really loved the game. She played for several years before she retired from the game due to health reasons. During her playing years she became very competitive and won a number of tournaments. She was a special lady when it came to golf. Her woods were a problem and she did not like to hit with them, but she could take a 5 iron and hit it as good or better than most people could hit a wood. Her putting was excellent. She could put much better than I could and I had been playing much longer.

All of our children were either married or away at college, and we enjoyed the country club life. We spent most of our summers in the mountains playing golf and enjoying life together. One of the main events of the summer was to have our family together at New Smyrna Beach for at least a week. This included our children, grandchildren and the husbands plus boyfriends sometimes. She enjoyed this event so much and spoiled all of us with her good cooking. We were active in church in Leesburg and have many friends in the area. We planned to move to Lake City in 1999 and purchased a lot on the golf course. We thought that by moving here we would be in the center of our family located in Mobile, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Williston and well positioned on I-75 and I-10. We completed our home in May Of 2000 and moved from Leesburg. Unfortunately things did not work out as planned and we started to loose family members. We lost her twin sister two months after we moved and our son died in February of 2002. Jean lost her favorite aunt and uncle a couple of years ago and God decided to call Jean home June 15, 2006. The loss of Jean has been the worst time of my life, but I am convinced that she is now face to face with Christ, our savior.

Rufus Ward

August 3, 2006

 

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