“Friendship is God’s special way of bringing sunshine to your day,” is inscribed on a cross-shaped plaque given to me by Jeanne Maras. It was a privilege to be Jeanne’s friend. I learned so much from her about so many things, and she certainly brought sunshine into my life.
The circle of Jeanne’s friends was large; her brother commented during her memorial service that she had “100 best friends.” Jeanne had a special talent for keeping close contact with friends regardless of distance or time passed. But what really drew others to Jeanne was that she gave genuine interest, care and concern to the friend she was with at the moment–people wanted to spend time with her.
Jeanne loved to nurture all living things; her family and friends of course but also every creature in her yard and beyond. All life had value and meaning to her. During a golf outing we noticed a young rattlesnake on the cart path. My instinct was to get as far away as possible. Jeanne’s first reaction was to rescue the snake from being run over by the next golf cart! She pulled out one of her clubs from her bag and gently coaxed the snake into the tall grass.
Jeanne’s diagnosis of Ovarian cancer was in February of 2003, surgery and chemo followed. When she was strong enough we would walk in our neighborhood, talking about our families, health and the future. Jeanne rarely canceled these walks. Even if she had to walk slowly and stop often, she wanted to be outside and be as active as possible. This was her motto for all events in her life; she only slowed down when there was no other option, and rarely wanted to discuss her physical problems.
Over the next five and half years Jeanne’s cancer returned again and again. She went through chemo four more times, but she kept living every day looking for the beauty in others and nature. Jeanne learned something new daily and taught others often. Her attitude was always to live each day to the fullest.
The gardens around Jeanne’s homes in Gladstone and Scottsdale were a reflection of her lively interest in plants and her desire to provide a home for wildlife. The result is a beautiful sanctuary for all. Jeanne loved to have guests in her home, have a nice meal, play cards and laugh often. She was a gracious hostess and fun! Her family has albums with hundreds of photographs Jeanne took of special family vacations, her daughter’s wedding, her son’s graduation from the U of O, extended family’s weddings, and births. These mementos will help recall the story of her life with those who she was closest. The volume of photos is another testimony to how much Jeanne valued time spent with those she loved.
In March 2008 a brain tumor was found and a bleak prognosis followed. Jeanne received radiation therapy on her brain and then chemo for spinal tumors. In the following months, Jeanne fought daily to stay connected with those she loved and to be as engaged as possible.
The real acknowledgment that Jeanne was a blessing to others was demonstrated in the final months of her life. Her husband of 31 years, Jim, daughter, Natalie, and son, Jeff, lovingly cared for her at home. For more than five months, friends and extended family streamed in and out of the family home. Many brought meals or flowers or sent cards as expressions of their love and desire to stay in contact with this precious person.
On September 1, 2008, in her own home surrounded by her dear family, Jeanne died with grace and dignity.
During the final months of her life, roles were reversed. Those who Jeanne had served were serving her–a real tribute to a strong woman who loved deeply and lived well.
— Written by Bonnie Marston
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