Jean Wodtke Ferring was engaging, feisty and funny, married to Jack for 52 years, loyal to her gang of close friends and her three kids. She moved fast and could shop for hours. At age 80, her favorite birthday present was a new tennis racket. Don't look for any other direct reference to age here, because we were given very specific instructions: "Don't tell anybody how old I was in my obituary or I'll come back and haunt you."
Jean passed away Oct. 22, 2017.
Jean was born in Charles City, Iowa, to Griff and Mona Wodtke, the youngest of three children after sister Susan and brother Kelley. Jean recalled Susan was the favored child: a great golfer, cellist and student who devastatingly died as a college freshman. Jean remembered her own childhood fondly, saying "I was the baby of the family and I was spoiled."
Griff Wodtke's manufacturing company went under during the Depression and he moved the family to Cedar Rapids, where Jean graduated from Franklin High School. She went on to William Woods College and graduated from Coe College, being a member of Chi Omega sorority. She went to work for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, writing for the society page naturally. That's what women did then.
It was at The Gazette that a friend offered to set up a double date with a reporter by the name of Jack Ferring. Jean wasn't sure until the friend pointed him out across the room. Sparks flew.
Jack enlisted as a Navy aviator in World War II, flying in the South Pacific, and they had their first child, Mike. Three years later came Jananne, Jean's clear favorite (don't deny it Nan). Tom arrived next; soon after the family moved to a home they built on Cottage Grove Avenue. Jack joined Griff Wodtke's company as manufacturer's representatives, and later started his own version. It meant he traveled often, but they spoke by phone every night.
Jean joined Junior League, PEO Chapter II and the Episcopal Church, where she helped bake mountains of the famous herb bread and contributed to the Burnt Offering cookbook. The kids followed strict rules (10-cent fine for an unmade bed) and looked forward to a dinner of cheese surprise, brimming with Velveeta.
They joined the Cedar Rapids Country Club nearly 60 continuous-membership years ago, playing golf and tennis. Jean loved to play bridge and mahjongg with "the girls," and was a member of Monday League. When the girls went to a certain local burger joint, she confessed that they smuggled in airplane-sized bottles of vodka to top up their drinks.
Jack died in 1995, punching a big hole in her life. She found comfort in that crowd of friends and what her dad told her those many years ago: "Keep your chin up Snookey. Keep your chin up."
Mike, Nan and Tom brought her six grandchildren and those brought 13 great-grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held Thursday, Oct. 26, at 10 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids.
Memorials may be given in her name to Christ Episcopal Church or Kirkwood Community College Foundation.
Online condolences may be left at www.cedarmemorial.com under obituaries.