Jean Kennett

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Jean Helen Eckford Kennett, 96, of Scottsdale, Arizona, died peacefully on December 19, 2014. Born on August 6, 1918, in Choteau, Montana, Jean was the daughter of John Eckford and Amy Crary.

Jean’s father, a dentist, had practiced in Mexico for 10 years before he moved to Choteau where he met Jean’s mother. Jean described her mother as a strong, independent woman whom she greatly admired.

Education was so important to Jean’s family that her parents scrimped and saved and managed to put her in Grinnell College where she studied journalism for two years. Jean then transferred to the University of Wisconsin to complete her studies. She eventually earned an M.A. in library science, an unusual accomplishment for a woman of her generation.

Jean suffered a great loss when her mother died when Jean was only 21. Her Aunt Lucy, her mother’s sister, another very strong woman, looked out for Jean from then on, eventually taking her on trips to the Atlantic coast and San Francisco.

As a young woman, Jean lived with girlfriends in Los Angeles, then with others in Milwaukee and later in San Antonio with yet others before moving to the Scottsdale area. Jean enjoyed all of these friends immensely and credited them with the interests she developed in ideas of the mind, literature and fashion.

Throughout her life Jean cultivated friendships with both men and women. She possessed the rare gift of being able to bring out stories and concerns others needed to share, and she usually deflected the conversation back to her companions rather than seeking attention for herself.

She was an elegant, stately, generous woman who enjoyed nice clothes, genteel outings and fancy restaurants as well as good conversation. She liked listening to baseball games and jazz and relished angel food cake. When asked what the most important quality in life is, Jean replied, “kindness.”

Once Jean had settled in Scottsdale, where she moved because her health had become delicate, she worked as the financial librarian for Valley National Bank for many years, retiring in 1979. She married Tom Kennett in 1965 and they divorced in 1985. After the divorce, Jean remained close to Tom’s daughter from his first marriage, Susan Drinnon of Smyrna, Georgia, and her family.

Jean became the keeper of many treasured quilts, silver, china, pieces of antique furniture and family photographs. One of her prized possessions was a painting of a hunting scene in Montana that Joe de Yong, a student of Charlie Russell’s, had painted for Jean’s uncle, Jack Crary of Choteau.

Jean showed her affection for others by creating special occasions such as introducing single people to each other, inviting teenagers out to lunch with their friends, sending illustrated books to children and keeping up with the news of many families through correspondence.

In later years she had close relationships with the caregivers who helped her maintain her lifestyle. Jean supported numerous social causes and local charities. She was pro-choice, a member of Death with Dignity, P.E.O. and a women’s book group, and an advocate for civil rights.

Honoring Jean’s request, no services will be held.  Her ashes will be interred in the family plot in National Cemetery near Elkader, Iowa.

Jean is survived by the families of  her  cousins’ children, the James Scarboros of  Boulder, Colorado, the Patrick Tatoms of  Moreland Hills, Ohio, and the Michael Sullivans of  San Diego, California.  The family requests that gifts in  Jean’s name be  made to Hospice of the Valley, 1510 E. Flower Street, Phoenix, AZ   85014.

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