Just two months short of her 90th birthday, Jean Agnes Johnson (nee Black) – beloved wife, mother, grandmother and recently great-grandmother – passed away Feb. 8 in hospital in Thunder Bay, the victim of a fall.
A proud Schreiber girl, Jean was the second of William and Annie (Bunty) Black’s two daughters, growing up with big sister Sheila in a CPR home on “Talcum Powder Row.” A tomboy, she preferred hockey and softball to Bunty’s community theatre and the local Women’s Institute run by her feisty school-marm grandmother. Still, when she left town after high school, it was to follow in her grandma’s footsteps
Teaching took her to Kenora’s Central Public School (one student recognized her 60 years later in Florida) — and a young carpenter from Wabigoon who took her skiing, canoeing and, in 1950, to the altar. That cost Jean her job (back then, women teachers had to be Miss) but led to a family – sons Jerry and Clark plus daughter Nancy.
In 1962, husband Ken tired of working long hours as a builder, so went to Toronto for teacher training, while Jean returned to a classroom in nearby Jaffray Melick (being Mrs. was okay now) to make ends meet. When Ken landed a job in the Lakehead, the family moved to the city where Jean’s parents had retired and she was to spend the rest of her life.
She loved curling, cards, cross-country skiing and, most of all, the Lac des Milles Lacs getaway Ken built in 1972, where they caught pickerel and (her true obsession) picked berries, often recruiting some of their seven grandchildren. They also visited relatives in Scotland (her) and Sweden (him), saw Australia and New Zealand after Ken retired, and became longtime snowbirds. Through it all, she was funny, gentle and kind.
As well as Ken, she leaves Jerry and Louise of Toronto, Clark and Cindy of Thunder Bay and Nancy and Jerry Panchuk of Calgary, along with Toronto grandchildren Gretchen (Mase) and Amy, Thunder Bay’s Brita, Craig (Michelle) and Brent (Crystal), and Graham and Sienna of Calgary. Just after losing sister Sheila last summer, Jean became a great grandmother (thanks to Gretchen and Mase) with the arrival of baby Leyla.
She will also be missed by sisters-in-law Ruth Carrie of Coldstream, B.C., Sharon (Bob) McGillivray and Mary (Don) Ashton, both of Dryden, as well as niece Heather McGillivray of Vancouver and nephew Bruce Turner and wife Cathie of Bracebridge, Ont.
A service for Jean was held Monday, Feb. 12, at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, followed by interrment at Sunset Memorial Gardens. Donations in her memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Society Thunder Bay or the Thunder Bay Regional Health Foundation’s “Hearts at Home” campaign.