Jean Stevenson

Jean Wynkoop was born Oct. 16, 1921, to Adeline and Howard Wynkoop in Philadelphia, Pa., an only child, and a Mayflower descendant. She attended Frankford High School in Philadelphia before attending West Chester University in West Chester, Pa. Jean graduated from college with a double major in Mathematics and English, with a minor in History. She accelerated her graduation so she could enlist in the Navy, feeling it her duty to her country, which was at war.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant JG in the Navy, Jean was in one of the early classes of WAVES training at Smith College, choosing celestial navigation as her course of study. After training, Jean was stationed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida. She, and her new-found friend, Elinor Stevenson, taught navigation to pilots.

After the war, Jean joined the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, and using a slide rule was a human computer on the team that designed and built the Piasecki H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee, nicknamed the “flying banana”. Jean applied to graduate school in Engineering, and was accepted, only to be denied admission when it was discovered that she was a woman! Jean instead was accepted at USC Law School, but fate intervened before she started classes.

In 1947 Jean travelled from the east coast to Portland, Ore., to be the maid of honor at Elinor Stevenson and John McGuire’s wedding. It was there she met Elinor’s tall, handsome brother, Donald, who was instantly smitten, proposing after only one week. Jean stayed on another week before saying yes. They parted, Jean going back to her work and life on the east coast, with a commitment to meet in San Francisco six months later if they still felt the same way.

Jan. 14, 1948, Jean and Donald were married in San Francisco with only their parents and Elinor and John McGuire in attendance. After honeymooning in Palm Springs, Jean became a resident of Willard where the family’s timber business was headquartered, population 60 – a far cry from Philadelphia! Jean’s mother-in-law, Angie, introduced the city girl to life in the forest, including how to pick huckleberries in the high mountains: Angie said “follow that bear, they know where the best berries are”, and seven-month pregnant Jean promptly headed in the opposite direction. Jean’s life revolved around her family; her husband, her children, her in-laws, Donald’s three brothers and two sisters, their spouses and children.

While Jean lived in a very small town she had joined a very large family. Family vacations usually involved at least one or more of Donald’s siblings and their family(s). A favorite was loading three or more families on the Black Prince, a World War II hospital ship Jean’s father-in-law purchased after the war and fitted out for family use, and cruising the inland waterways of British Columbia.

Eventually Jean and Donald got a second home in Portland, Ore. There Jean was an active member of the community. She supported the arts and other important charitable causes, but education was her passion. She was the President of the PTA at her children’s schools, Ainsworth Elementary School and Lincoln High School, and was General Chairwoman and Permanent Member of the Reed College Women’s Committee. She was a member of The Town Club, and a 50-year member of the Multnomah Athletic Club. Jean regularly played bridge with a great group of ladies, and was a long-time member of a book club – insisting they read only non-fiction.

Already a world traveler, from the Soviet Union during the cold war, to skiing in Europe, and taking family and friends to tour Washington D.C. and the historic sites of the east coast, when Jean’s last child finally left home for college her traveling bug really picked up. Given any excuse, Jean would pack up and take off – exploring nearly every continent. She often took grandchildren on trips to show them different parts of the world, always with an educational element.

Having been an only child Jean wanted to have a lot of children, and getting a relatively late start she and Donald had five; Joan (Dave), Barbara (Mike), Scott (Guri), Dwight (Jenny) and Ellen (Allen), nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Only days away from her 98th birthday, Jean passed on Oct. 3, 2019, with children and grandchildren around her.

A life well lived.

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