Jeanine Wehr Jones, 78, known and loved for her wit, good cheer, and caring, passed away Jan. 23, 2020, in Hood River, Ore., with her husband, Larry, at her side. Her death came fast and unexpected from metastatic cancer.
Thanks to Hospice, she died peacefully, after courageously denying herself food and water, “to go as fast as possible, and not trouble others.”
Jeanine Beryl Wehr was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., in 1941, to Julian August Wehr and Juliette Laubinger Wehr. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to a hilltop farm in Roxbury, Vt. It was a difficult and scary time — fear of invasion and suspicion of German Americans were real. For the urban Wehrs, it was tough to make ends meet — little farming knowledge, bitter cold, no electricity, a three-holer, and a devastating fire that destroyed all her father’s art work — all forged a strong, resilient family. Jeanine was deeply loved and touched by her assertive, loving mother, Julie, artistic dad, Julian, and devoted brothers, Paul and David.
In 1945, a new source of income emerged for Jeanine’s family. Her father invented and patented the animated children’s books that use moveable paper parts, that are moved using tabs. And, thanks to her mother’s dogged persistence, a publisher was found. More than 9 million were eventually sold.
With this new income, the family was able to move to Connecticut, where her mother successfully sold Stanley Home Products in house parties. Jeanine remembered the many days she waited in front of the Danbury Library, after it closed, for her mother to pick her up after a party, as well as filling the orders in their home basement.
Jeanine graduated from Danbury High in 1959, and the family moved to New Smyrna, Fla., where Julie taught elementary school and Julian restarted his sculpting. Jeanine attended nearby Stetson University and worked in the school dorm to support herself. In 1963, her senior year, she signed up with the United Church Board for World Missions to teach in Turkey, a Peace Corps-like three-year commitment, inspired in part by her esteemed brother Paul and his development work with the Quakers in North Africa.
At the six-week orientation before heading to Turkey, she met her husband-to-be, Larry (Lawrence), a California farm boy who was dazzled by this vivacious young woman from the East. Jeanine later called him “my diamond in the rough.” Larry proposed to her mid-Atlantic one evening on the RMS Mauretania foredeck, on their way to Turkey.
Jeanine taught that year at the girl’s school, Uskudar Kiz Lisesi, in Istanbul. She loved her contact with students and faculty, and they loved her. Exploring this exotic city, using her newly learned Turkish was fun and exciting. In 1964, she and Larry were married in a Quaker ceremony, at home next to Rumeli Hisar, in Istanbul. They taught for two years at the Tarsus Amerikan Koleji, a boy’s school in Tarsus, Turkey. Jeanine loved this teaching, especially with the younger boys, and town’s people who attended her adult evening classes to learn English. They developed many life-long friendships with students and teachers there, who they visited in 2016, 20-plus years later.
At the end of their term, in 1967, they moved to Philadelphia, where Jeanine taught at Harrity Elementary and Larry attended University of Pennsylvania. Two years later, they landed in Columbia, Mo., where Larry began his doctoral studies in counseling psychology. The Columbia Friends Meeting was a large part of Jeanine and Larry’s life. They were active in numerous “peace activities,” including the student strike protesting the Vietnam War and the Cambodian invasion. A major highlight of Jeanine and Larry’s three years in Columbia was the joyous birth of their son, Mark Lawrence, in 1969, and the pregnancy with Juliet Ariel. It was Jeanine’s desire to have the children “naturally,” so she and Larry went to Lamaze classes and supported one another in the birthing of Mark and Juliet.
In 1971, Jeanine and Larry began 30-plus years in Raleigh, N.C. They were committed to having Jeanine stay at home during Mark and Juliet’s childhood years to give them the most wholesome, loving upbringing possible — as well as, living frugally, saving for Mark and Juliet’s college education, being earth-friendly, raising their own vegetables, and living a do-it-yourself, minimalist “Quakerly” life — much as Jeanine had with her parents in Vermont.
1979-80 was a memorable year for Jeanine and her family, as they spent that year in Britain, Europe, and West Berlin — while Larry taught as a visiting professor. Jeanine displayed her enthusiastic, fun-loving, can-do spirit as the family traversed the countries searching for distant relatives, visiting historical sites, and supporting her two children as they navigated being students in local British and German schools.
Once the children were in middle school, Jeanine pursued a Masters degree in Library Sciences at NC Central University, a night program 30 miles distant. She saw this as a way to help build a college fund for Mark and Juliet, as well as retirement. It was also at this time that she was caring for her mother, Julie, in distant Greensboro.
Upon graduation, she worked as a school librarian at an “alternative” high school for wayward youth, helping them grow to face life’s challenges. Early on, her position’s title was changed to Media Specialist, and much to her surprise and consternation, was expected to be an expert in the school’s AV equipment, a technology much outside her interests and experience! She enjoyed telling many jokes and humorous stories about her work.
In 1997, Jeanine and Larry founded careerkey.org — a new, free, public professional service designed to help students and adults make good career and educational decisions. This included a valid personality measure for making good matches, occupational and educational information, and numerous self-help articles written by experts in the field. Throughout its development and growth — serving millions of people online — Jeanine played a pivotal role. She and Larry worked together. It was their way of giving back and helping.
Career Key led to Jeanine and Larry’s working with educators and counselors in the U.S. and many other countries, including Canada, Jamaica, Romania, Turkey, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Early on, companies inquired about licensing the website’s content and, subsequently, Career Key became a hybrid philanthropy and business. Later, daughter Juliet became the CEO.
Beginning in 1982, Jeanine and family began going summers to Deer Isle, Stonington, Maine, where they could see brother Paul and participate in island life. She found their future home on the hill overlooking the harbor, “Casa Billings,” and helped make it a center of love for family and friends. Driving to and from Raleigh in their older Volkswagen bus provided many humorous adventures. Not surprisingly, Jeanine (and Larry) made many dear, and close friends — both “islanders” and “from awayers.” The Stonington Methodist church was the center of many of her special friendships and activities. The friendship, good times, and help of the local island people were much valued and appreciated.
Mark and Juliet, to Jeanine’s delight, had many summer adventures, and learned a lot — working at the local newspaper, cannery, sailing with mom, dad, and brother Paul to Grand Manan, Nova Scotia. Visits from family members were among the summer’s highlights — including the discovery and visit of Jeanine’s half-sister, Camilla Molinari, and her daughter, Leah Molinari-Jones!
In 2004, on their retirement, Jeanine and Larry moved from Raleigh to Hood River, Ore. There, Jeanine especially enjoyed visits with Mark, Juliet and her grandchildren — Kaya, Maia, and Nicky — all of whom she deeply loved, and was dedicated to making their life the best possible. She made their home a place of love and warmth, filled with family photos and artwork.
Jeanine’s involvement with members of the Riverside Community Church and Pastor Vicky Stifter, in Hood River, were highlights of her life — as were seeing her friends at Snap Fitness, Tuesday “Gatherings at the Manor” with church friends, and coffee/lunch get-togethers with close friends. Jeanine also loved to commune with nature, taking hikes with Larry, along Hood River and Catherine Creek.
Similarly, in Maine, Jeanine enjoyed her many friends in town and at the gym, nature walks, seeing her brother Paul and his wife Christiane Griffin, visits from family, attending the Methodist church, and going on various outings with Larry.
It was during this time that friends began receiving Jeanine’s much-anticipated, occasional emails regaling them with stories of her family’s life, illustrated with photos. There were also cards with cartoons snipped from recycled New Yorker magazines. Friends and family often say how much they looked forward to these emails and cards, with Jeanine’s wit and humor.
Jeanine will be deeply missed by all of us to whom she brought blessings of light, love, and laughter. She was a wonderful, strong, loving, caring woman — who deeply loved and cared for her husband Larry, children, others, and life on this Earth. A true friend and inspiration.
According to her wishes, friends and family will meet in a simple, informal celebration of life at Riverside Community Church in Hood River on March 14 at 2 p.m. A similar gathering will be held this summer in Stoningon, Maine, on Deer Isle.
Donations, in her name, may be made to the Stetson Fund for Scholarships, Stetson University, Office of Development, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., Unit 8286, DeLand, FL 32723.