Jean M. Leary



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Longtime Eagle River resident Jean M. Leary died Jan. 17, 2013 at her home in the South Fork Valley, where she had lived for 37 years. She was 66.

Her family said she had fought multiple sclerosis for 31 years. Her husband of 45 years, John, and her English Springer Spaniel, Mike, were with her when she died.

A memorial gathering will be held at a later date. She requested that her cremated remains be spread in her beloved Yukon, Canada, where she found friendship, peace and tranquility.

She was born July 9, 1945 in Wausau, Wisconsin. When she was a young girl her family moved to Stevens Point, where she attended local schools, graduating from Maria High in 1963. She went on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she met John, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her BSN in 1967. That same year, she and John were married and made their first home in Mankato, Minn. Jean was a pediatric staff nurse at St. Joseph Hospital there until being hired as a public health nurse for Blue Earth County, where she worked until 1972 when she, John and their two Irish Setters moved to Alaska.

Upon arriving in Alaska, Jean was hired as a pediatric nurse at Providence Hospital, where she worked for five months until the Greater Anchorage Borough hired her as a PHN. Her first area was Mountain View/Government Hill, but by the mid 1970s Jean ran the Eagle River office in the Parkgate building. She conducted clinics and vaccine programs there, worked with the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center and made home visits from Eagle River to Eklutna. She especially enjoyed working with expectant and new mothers, infants and children.

Jean was affiliated with Alpha Phi Sorority, The National MS Society, UW Nurses Alumni Organization and The American Cancer Society. She received awards and certificates of appreciation from different organizations, but was most proud of those received from the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center.

“Though her professional career ended prematurely in 1995 because of physical and mental disabilities, she fought on relentlessly without complaining,” her family said. “With the assistance of friends and family she managed to travel by motorhome and boat, weather permitting. She was an avid fisher, hunter and gatherer when she was physically able. She loved camping, campfires, reading and her pets.”

She is survived by her husband, John Leary of Eagle River; mother, Lorraine Van Beckum of Wisconsin; sisters, Ann Tepp and Mary Tepp of Wisconsin and Linda Purnell of Minnesota.

She was preceded in death by her father, Joseph Van Beckum; father-in-law, Herbert Leary; and mother-in-law, Theresa Leary.

The family wishes to send a special thank you to Dr. Kenneth Pervier and his wife, Gay; home health nurses Pat, Arminda, Kathy, Sue, Lynne, Marilyn, Rick and especially Linda; home health aides, Julie, Cindi, Jenny, Iris, Donna and Mysteree, the PTs; and all the friends, family and neighbors who lent their support and helping hands.

Memorial donations may be made to Providence Hospice, 5435 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage.

Arrangements by Janssen’s Eagle River Funeral Home.

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