Helen Jean DurkeeNovember 1, 1927 ~ January 4, 2018 (age 90)
(Helen) Jean Durkee, 90, died Thursday, January 4th, at the South Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Community. She was born November 1, 1927 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Jerome and Frances Bolter.
Jean was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years Garry Miles Durkee. She leaves behind her siblings Phyllis Doornbos, Richard (Rita) Bolter, Patricia (Theodore) Siereveld, daughter Susan (Gregory) Middlemis, sons Gerard (Jennifer), Mark (Elytta), Donald (Cyndi), Philip (Sue), Douglas (Mary Jo), John (Landy), Robert (Marietta), Christopher (Lilliana), daughter-in-law Mary Durkee, grandchildren John Middlemis, Becca (Travis) Leonard, Alisha (Kenny) Giles, Emily Durkee, Andrea Durkee, Paul (MacCartney) Durkee, Jacob Durkee, Maria (Arvid) Callas, Monica Durkee, Kate (Ryan) Huttenga, Elie (David) Roberts, Erin (Matt) Weaver, David (Emily) Durkee, Stephen Durkee, Holly (William) Kammel, Ryan Durkee, Jennifer Durkee, Helen Durkee, Christopher Durkee, and 12 great grandchildren.
In 1945 Jean graduated from Union High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Soon after, like millions of other young women of her time, she went to work in a factory to support the war effort of WWII. When the war ended she went to work for Michigan National Bank and was the secretary to the bank president. She soon met the love of her life, Garry Durkee, and they were married on October 30, 1948. Jean was a woman of many talents and her extraordinary organizational skills were put to good use while raising a family of nine children. Her children fondly recall her system of using different colors of thread to keep their socks sorted as a stroke of genius.
Jean was an active member of Holy Family Catholic Church in Caledonia, Michigan where she was a member of the Altar Society and the Women’s Guild, and she sang soprano for many years in the church choir. Her beautiful, untrained, singing voice was enjoyed as soloist for countless weddings in the Caledonia area over the years.
As an athletic woman, Jean often lamented that the women of her generation weren’t afforded the opportunity to participate vigorously in sports. She loved the Detroit Tigers and playing pitch and catch with her children. The neighborhood boys marveled at how far she could punt a football. Attending the many sporting events of her children and grandchildren was a favorite pastime.
Jean took pleasure in activities such as reading, solving mysteries, bowling, ceramics, and painting. Many lasting friendships were made in these pursuits. Her family cherishes the ceramic Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and the watercolor and acrylic paintings she created, which will be lasting memories for generations to come.
In retirement Jean and her husband Garry relocated to Minneola, Florida. She and Garry were a force to be reckoned with in the local shuffleboard league. Jean became a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Clermont, Florida and belonged to the Women’s Guild. She continued her love of singing as a member of her church choir and the Lake County Ladies Chorus.
Jean could sometimes be heard to good naturedly wonder why God had blessed her with so many children. As the years went by, and the difficulties of old age crept upon her, she was often times surrounded by family and proclaimed, “Now I know.”
Visitation will be held from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Monday, January 15, 2018 at the St. Peter Catholic Church in Douglas. Mass will follow visitation at 12:00 PM at the church with Father Stephen Durkee officiating. Helen will be laid to rest at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. Kindly share your thoughts and memories on the family’s online guestbook.