Jeanne was born in 1918 in Yakima WA, the youngest of five children of Roderick and Anna Graham, owners of a Toppenish WA dry goods store. She passed away March 24, 2020 at the Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland WA after a brief hospital stay for pneumonia that a test showed was not Coronavirus. Ironically, however, she was born and died during two historic pandemics.
After skipping a grade and graduating from Toppenish High School in the midst of the depression, Jeanne attended the University of Washington except for a sophomore year of junior college in California. She graduated with a degree in history in 1940. She had plans to attend graduate school to become a librarian, but after taking a graduation trip to visit her sister, Helen, in Chicago instead of returning to Seattle, she detoured to visit her finance Herb Stevenson who was in Army Air Corps training in San Antonio, Texas. The visit turned into a marriage that lasted 74 years. At the end of training, the cadets were given the options of a commission in the corps or joining Pan American Airlines. Herb and a number of his life-long friends chose Pan Am.
Herb was soon part of a flying-boat crew traversing the Caribbean and South America and later, during WWII, moving on from South America to Africa, Portugal and back to the US via the Azores. During this time, a son, Doug, and a daughter, Sigrid, were born, and the family moved from Miami to New York to Miami to Redwood City, California, to Greenwich, Connecticut and back to Miami by the close of the war. During all those moves, Jeanne and Herb became close to another Army Corps/Pam Am family, Duke and Vera Campbell, who ended up following the same trajectory. All four of them were westerners at heart. Jeanne, Duke and Vera grew up in Washington State. Herb in Fort Bragg, California.
When the war was over, both families chose to transfer west, first to the Bay Area and, then, to the Seattle area in 1948. Pan Am at that time was flying from Seattle to Alaska and Hawaii. Housing was in very short supply so the Stevensons with 2 kids moved in for a while with their best friends from college, Dave and Harriet Shore, and their three kids until a house could be rented on Beacon Hill. Soon thereafter Jeanne and Herb’s last child, Nancy, was born. In search of larger and more permanent homes, the growing Campbell and Stevenson families joined forces building houses side by side on a dividable lot in an unincorporated area that later became the City of Medina.
After all those years of moving, Jeanne and Herb settled down in a house designed for them by a UW Architecture Professor who lived in the neighborhood. They ended up living there for )45 years. It was an idyllic place for families with kids. Five backyards came together without any streets, fences or even driveways interfering. During the ’50’s every house had kids and the kids played freely (and safely as it turned out) every day and often times after dinner. Games included Sardines, Kick the Can or the neighborhood special, “Communist” where kids had to get across the border to freedom without being caught by the guard’s flashlight. Jeanne and Vera were always there, if and when needed, but left the kids to figure out a lot of things for themselves. Since the dads were far away at least half the time, they did almost all of the parenting.
During this time, Jeanne perfected her skills as a cook and entertainer. In the summer, her patio was often the center for neighborhood dinners. Both kids and adults often ate at each other’s houses. Invitations were mostly informal and last minute with occasional special events. Jeanne and Herb’s dining table and their patio had the most use of all. Jeanne was also great at keeping up connections with relatives and old friends from college and other places the family had lived. As a result, the family had frequent guests with many a dinner or breakfast/brunch where people remained talking around the table for hours.
By the end of the 1950’s Pan Am closed its Seattle base. Herb and Duke transferred to San Francisco and ultimately flew regular round-the-world trips that always began or ended with a polar flight to or from London. The Campbells moved to Los Altos, California. Jeanne and Herb considered moving but loved their house and neighborhood too much. Herb commuted to California for work for the last 20 years of flying.
In early 60’s, Herb began taking Jeanne and their daughters on trips to Europe while their oldest began traveling on his own. They all became close friends with a London couple, Joan and Henry Greenwood. Joan was a Pan Am ticket agent, and Henry was the music librarian for the London Symphony. This led to dozens of visits over the years on both sides of the Atlantic as well as free symphony concerts. During this time, Jean and Herb also began boating, first with a smaller cabin cruiser “stink pot” and then with a “ragbag” sailboat that slept 6 people. They spent a month each summer going north through the San Juan and Gulf Islands to Princess Louisa Inlet and Desolation Sound and beyond, often in tandem boat with Dave and Harriet Shore. Jeanne always cooked great meals on these trips. With the advent of boating, Jeanne also learned to swim, something she had not had the opportunity to do in her youth.
In the late 60’s and 70’s, as their kids married and formed their own families, Jeanne and Herb traveled more often. They visited Doug in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and Sig and her husband Alan stationed in Adana, Turkey. Herb had an opportunity to take a short-term transfer to Sydney, Australia, where Jeanne loved “down under” and the excitement of its biggest city. They became grandparents to Ryan Quinn, Sig and Alan Quinn’s son, Graham and Greg Stevenson, Doug and Marcia Stevenson’s sons, and Jaime Oberlander, Nancy Stevenson and Jim Oberlander’s daughter. Herb reached 60 and mandatory retirement in 1979. With retirement Duke and Vera Campbell also moved back to the Puget Sound area.
Jeanne and Herb remained in their Medina home for another 20 years, hosting lots of family and old friend gatherings, but missing the kind of community the neighborhood used to have. Housing lots had been subdivided and fences had gone up. Old houses were torn down and much bigger ones were built. In 1995, deciding it was time to stop going up and down the stairs, they sold the family home and moved to a condo in Kirkland. Luckily a younger family bought their home and renovated it in-keeping with the original design. The house remains an excellent example of midcentury modern architecture.
By 2003 Jeanne and Herb decided it was time to follow former neighbors to the senior community of Emerald Heights on a hill southeast of downtown Redmond. They made new friends, and Jeanne became best known for winning the annual pie baking contest several times with her famous raspberry pie. Herb built a box to house the control panel of the large outdoor model railroad. On Dec. 26, 2013, Jeanne and Herb celebrated their last wedding anniversary together. Herb died from a fall almost a year later at the end of October. (Jeanne insisted we use 74 years of marriage rather than 73 and 10 months since it was so close.)
Now on her own, Jeanne moved to a smaller apartment and made a new group of friends. With increasing balance and vision problems, however, she moved to the assisted living unit. After several falls, she ended up in the nursing home section where she lived for the next 4 years. Life there was not easy primarily because the rooms were designed years ago when the standard was two people to a relatively small room. One person gets the window. Emerald Heights has been kept from building a new unit by neighborhood opposition to further expansion. Jeanne lived for the first 2 years in the interior half of a room. For the last two years she was able to move to the window side of a room.
While Jeanne lost mobility and too much vision to keep reading all the good books she loved, she still did exercises everyday and continued reading via stacks of talking books from the Library for the Blind. To the very end she retained her sharp mind and ability to develop and maintain long lasting friendships and family connections. The kids of Jeanne and Herb’s best friends, the Campbells and Shores, continued to visit her regularly as did other childhood friends of Doug, Sig and Nancy. She also kept in touch with her remaining nieces and nephews around the country, Ellen and Rod Graham, Mark and David Stevenson and Susan Amos. Everyone loved the twinkle in her eye when she was enjoying company as well as her love of fun and her good sense of humor. For her 100th birthday, 3 different celebrations were hosted in her honor where she rose to the occasion as the life of the parties. She was always up on local, national and world affairs, commenting on the latest Coronavirus news and lamenting Trump’s slow response to her last days in hospice.
Jeanne overcame her bout with pneumonia, but with the difficulties of recovery and Coronavirus cases at Emerald Heights, she decided it was wiser to embrace the inevitable than to keep on fighting. The Evergreen Hospice is a gracious and lovely place, both in terms of the surroundings and the care the staff show. She stopped her medications and went on a water and popsicle diet. She became a bit impatient when she was still going after several days, but she was relieved that she was able to make her best possible, last choice in peaceful and dignified surroundings.
An amazing life and a dear family. Thank you,
I was one of those kids playing games in the back yard in Medina, a happy recipient of many delicious meals, and a fortunate learner in Jeanne’s kitchen. She was a treasure.
- Dawn Hanson Smart
Truly an amazing lady. I loved her dearly !!!
I will miss her very much. We could always
make each other laugh.
I was blessed to call her a friend.
Thank you for everything!
In 1979 we had the good fortune of becoming Herb and Jeanne's neighbors, after purchasing Duke and Vera's home next door in Medina. Herb had recently retired from Pan Am and was soon involved in multiple new activities. I helped Herb construct the removable hatch over the hole in the living room ceiling that the huge Christmas tree went through each year. The stone path that joined our two back yards was heavily travelled over the next 16 years. We had the pleasure of meeting the Campbells and the Shores and Peggy and Jeanne developed a hand signal protocol that became a daily routine through the back windows. We enjoyed the benefits of Jeanne's great skills as a cook and shared many wonderful Holiday meals with their family. Peggy and Jeanne would trade complaints about our mis-behaviors as husbands. We continued to visit them at their Kirkland condo and later at Emerald Heights and their energy and great sense of humor were ever present. We were blessed to know them both!
Dean and Peggy Ricketts