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Jean M. Sheldon

February 1, 1927 April 2, 2020
Jean M. Sheldon
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Obituary for Jean M. Sheldon

Sheldon, Jean M.

Beloved wife of the late Samuel Sheldon.
Loving mother of Polly (Ken) Evans, and Philip Sheldon (Jacob McMahon).
Proud grandmother of John (Bonnie) Evans, Jim (Lisa) Evans, and Emily (Marc) Winkler.
Cherished great-grandmother of Joshua, Julia, Alyssa, Maya, and Paige Evans, and Jack and Luke Winkler.
Dear sister of the late Stuart MacVeigh, and the late William MacVeigh.
Kind aunt of many nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Memorial service is pending due to the current health crisis. The family plans to host a beautiful celebration of Jean’s life at a later date. 708-857-7878

Jean Sheldon was a caring, generous woman who was dedicated to her family and generous to her friends. She and her husband Sam spent 61 years together, living in Elmhurst, Wheaton and Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and for two years in Frederic, Wisconsin. After retiring they enjoyed exploring North America, Europe and Asia together. Their children Polly and Phil went on to successful careers in teaching and worldwide travel.

In her early years Jean lived in Wheaton, Illinois where she lived in a lively household with her mother, her two brothers Stuart and Bill, her aunts Alice (Lolly) and Katherine (Kappy) and her beloved Uncle Howie. The big house was often filled with the laughter of her cousins, especially Jack Cole, Kathy Powell Suhr and Nancy Rowland Filbert. From the large family house, she made lifelong friends including neighbor Pat Gerling (with whom she always used Winnie the Pooh names), Emily Breckman and especially “the Round Robin Girls”.

These seven high school friends met only occasionally as adults but for over 60 years they exchanged round robin letters with each other. Once or twice a year each would write a letter, add it to a thick envelope of letters and clippings, remove her previous letter, then pass it on. The kids became “cousins” to each other, and we all looked forward to summer reunions in Michigan at the family Lake Michigan cottages of Jeanne North and Janet Carson.

Jean and Sam raised Polly and Phil mostly in Glen Ellyn. The house had a yard big enough for kickball with the neighbor kids on summer evenings and a large vegetable garden. Next to the garden was a thriving rhubarb patch from which Jean made rhubarb crisp for several generations of teachers who were invited over for tea.

The entire family retained warm memories of the two years spent in Frederic, Wisconsin where Sam bought a milk truck route. No, he wasn’t taking bottles door to door, but rather he visited several farms each morning to pick up large metal cans and take them to the local Stella Cheese Creamery. Jean spent her days with her kids and neighbors, especially Hazel Thor from whom she acquired her famous cinnamon bread recipe, and an annual tradition of giving that Polly continues to this day. Polly started school in Frederic and while his City peers were in pre-school and kindergarten, Phil and his friend Nancy Thor and others frolicked in the fields and raspberry bushes of this small farming village.

After returning to Illinois, Jean worked as a legal secretary for many years with the States Attorney’s office and with attorney Ralph Gust. Sam mostly drove buses around the Chicago area, but especially enjoyed charters to nearby states. Jean and Sam found special joy in supporting the accomplishments of Polly and Phil. They were especially proud to send Polly off for a summer in Finland, send Phil for a year in Japan and to host Edgardo Hernandez Ojeda from Chile. All these exchanges were through the AFS program, for which Jean became a lifelong volunteer and made many friends of her own, including especially Mary and Bill Glenn, who have also been steadfast mentors to Phil over the years.

After Polly left home to study at McMurray College and to start teaching, and Phil went off to Japan and then Harvard, Jean and Sam started attending the Christian Science Church of Glen Ellyn. At church they not only found spiritual enrichment, but they also became part of a group of friends of all ages that remained an important part of their lives for decades.

After retirement, Jean and Sam were delighted to have more time to spend with Polly and Ken and their kids. They attended every birthday and holiday party and attended as many of John, Jim and Emily’s spelling bees, sports matches and performances as they could get to. They also had fond memories of the two family vacations that Jean and Sam, Polly’s family and Phil took together.

The first was to the Wisconsin Dells and “The Farm” – a Christmas tree farm owned by Jean’s cousins, the Powell’s. The second was to Stowe, Vermont and Cambridge, Mass. Jean never forgot her joy in spending a Vermont evening alone with Emily, sharing life stories and really getting to know each other for the first time, while the rest of the family were at a local theatre watching Jurassic Park.

Travel was always an important part of family life. Even if money was short there were nearby parks to explore such as the Morton Arboretum and White Pines State Park. Polly and Phil also looked forward to road trips to Mountain Home, Arkansas to visit Jean’s mom and her siblings, a train trip to Washington, DC to visit Jean’s brother Stuart and his family, and a drive across Ontario to Niagara Falls, then on to Syracuse, New York to see Sam’s brother John and his family.

Jean and Sam didn’t leave North America until Polly and Phil bought them airline tickets to London for Christmas the first year that both were working. Jean and Sam rented a car, learned how to drive “on the wrong side of the road” and spent two glorious weeks touring around England, Wales and Scotland. Highlights included visiting Jean’s longtime pen pal Dorothy Ball near Nottingham and spending a day as the guest of a Scottish postal driver as he made his rounds through the Highlands.

Once bitten by the travel bug, they returned to Europe to explore Northern Scandinavia and visit Polly’s host family in Finland. They were able to return the favor a few years later by hosting their new Finnish friends in Illinois, including a memorable visit to Brookfield Zoo, including the grandkids.

In 1987, they made their first trip across the Pacific since Sam’s submarine voyage to Wake Island during World War II. Phil had spent a year working for IBM in China and was then working for IBM Japan. They met up in Tokyo then flew together to China. Phil showed them his home in Shanghai then introduced them to his Chinese friend Dong Qing and his parents near Chongqing in western China. To welcome the foreign guests, they threw a 36-course banquet. Poor Sam assumed the several dishes on the table when they sat down were the full meal and was full after about 6 courses.

In honor of Jean and Sam’s 50th anniversary, 9/9/99, Polly organized a beautiful dinner for a large group of friends and relatives, and Reuben and Emily Taylor escorted the guests of honor to the party in an old classic car that Reuben had restored. After the party, Phil and his folks flew to Switzerland for a two-week adventure. Sam was content with short walks and comfortable benches from which he could watch trains and cows (two of his lifelong passions) while Jean joined Phil for some moderate hikes.

Two years later Jean and Sam recruited the four “church ladies”, Caryn Graham, Barb Ohannes, Judy Boba and Pat Olson to join them for a British Isles tour that Phil planned and led. To celebrate the Fourth of July in Edinburgh, the English driver put a small American flag at each person’s place at breakfast.

That was Sam’s last international adventure, but in 2011, Jean and Caryn Graham joined Phil and a group of his HE Travel clients for a tour of China. One of Jean’s favorite photos was of her and Phil dressed as an Empress and Emperor at the Ming Tombs. She also enjoyed seeing Dong Qing again, and meeting his teenage daughter Yue Yue (Phil’s goddaughter) in Chongqing. Jean and Yue Yue were invited to select the dinner restaurant, and they chose McDonald’s. This was a special treat for Yue Yue, and Jean enjoyed seeing a familiar American restaurant with a strong Chinese accent.

Around the same time, Phil won a trip for two to Alaska and invited his mom to join him. Her Round Robin friends from high school, Janet Carson and Audrey DeMuth also joined the trip, one of the last times they would all be together. Ever since, an Alaska photo of the three of them sat proudly on a shelf where Jean could be reminded of her special friends.

As Sam’s health gradually deteriorated, they were able to stay in their Glen Ellyn condo with the help of a caring Ukrainian friend named Yuriy. This allowed Jean to stay active with her church and indulge in her weekly hair appointments. When she stopped driving, she was grateful for the church friends who helped her get where she needed to go – a service that she and Sam had offered for many years to an earlier generation of church elders.

Sam passed away in 2010, then in 2015 Jean moved to an apartment at Waterford Estates in Hazel Crest, Illinois. She was grateful for the many staff members who made sure that she was safe and comfortable and for her lunch and dinner companions Eleanor and Grace (Ken’s mother). She especially appreciated the support and fond friendship of her best friend, Connie Grandfield, with whom she would enjoy a Frango Mint (or 2 or 3) each evening.

Jean’s move to Waterford allowed her to spend more time with Polly, Ken and their children and to be much closer to her great-grandchildren. She was now able to attend musical recitals by Joshua, dance routines by Julia, and gymnastics presentations by Alyssa, Maya and Paige, as well as theatre performances by son-in-law Ken. Even as her memory began to fade in the past couple of years, she reserved her biggest smiles for her two youngest grandchildren, Jack and his little brother Luke. She always looked forward to visits from Phil from his home in Key West or Salt Lake City, or on his way to lead a tour somewhere around the world.

One of Jean’s happiest moments was watching her beloved Chicago Cubs finally win a World Series in 2016! Her older brother Bill was an even more passionate Cubs fan. He lived 90 years without ever seeing a Cubs Championship, so Jean proudly celebrated the victory on Bill’s behalf.

Jean led a full, rich life. Despite occasional setbacks, she retained a cheerful and optimistic perspective about the future. Even though a gathering of family and friends to celebrate her life needs to be deferred to allow “social distancing”, let us each learn from her example of resiliency, hope and especially Joy!


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