Jean Oxley, a lifelong resident of Linn County, passed away March 29, 2020. Private services for the immediate family are being held this week in accordance with state and federal guidance on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date and time, to be announced. Murdoch Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Marion, Iowa, is assisting Jean's family.
A prominent Democratic leader in Iowa politics, the Linn County government building was named in her honor as the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center in 2012. In 1970, she was the first woman elected chairperson for the Linn County Democrats and she was the first woman elected to the Linn County Board of Supervisors. She served for 24 years, from 1972 to 1996. She was the second woman in the state of Iowa to hold a leadership position on a county board of supervisors and the first to serve as president of a 400-member state supervisors association.
During her tenure on the Board of Supervisors, Jean worked for gender balance for Linn County boards and commissions. Jean was a champion of the elderly, young, disabled and the most vulnerable of society. Jean helped establish funding for the ARC of East Central Iowa, which includes a program to help families keep their children at home rather than in institutions. Jean helped establish the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center to ensure separation from adults. She initiated the first Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in Cedar Rapids. She was appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to serve on the State Mental Health and Disability Services Commission.
She retired in 1996 and continued her deep involvement in her community by being active on numerous boards and taskforces. Jean worked with Churches United to help break down racial barriers. Her passion and dedication for enhancing the quality of life of people has been recognized by numerous awards. In 2012, she was awarded Waypoint Tribute to Women of Achievement Pillar.
Born to Dr. Carl E. and Edna Liabo in Center Point, Iowa, on Nov. 26, 1925, she attended Luther College from 1943 to 1945 and was a proud graduate of the University of Iowa in 1947 with a degree in sociology.
Married to Myron "Mike" Oxley in 1957, they lived on a farm east of Marion. She is survived by her two children, JoAnne (Darrel) Draper of Omaha, Neb., and Ralph (Laurie) Oxley of Marion; three grandchildren, Breanna, Brittney (Dillon Besser) and Braden Oxley; sister, Patricia Andersen; and many nephews and nieces.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. Carl and Edna Liabo; husband, Myron "Mike" Oxley; brother, Leslie Liabo; and sister, Darlene Bohling.
Jean taught high school at Oskaloosa, Belle Plaine and at LaSalle in Cedar Rapids before becoming a program director at the YWCA (now called Waypoint) for 20 years. She was a long-time member of Quota Club and Daughters of American Revolution (DAR). She was active in the First United Methodist Church in Marion for over 40 years and was a member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Cedar Rapids. She was an avid bridge player and a voracious reader, and she loved crossword puzzles and traveling. Jean's impact of selfless service and dedication has reached far and wide, well beyond the borders of this community that has been her home all her life.
In lieu of flowers, the family has provided a link for donations which include three of her favorite organizations: Liabo Scholarship: at the University of Iowa (in honor of her parents); Linn County Juvenile Detention Center; and the ARC (serving people with intellectual and related disabilities): www.gofundme.com/f/memorial-fund-for-jean-oxley
Please share a memory of Jean at www.murdochfuneralhome.com under obituaries.