- About Us
Jeannette Grace Thor MurphyMay 28, 1923 ~ August 2, 2017 (age 94)
Jeannette Grace Thor Murphy
May 28, 1923 – August 2, 2017
Over 94 years, Jeannette Grace Thor Murphy was greeted by family and friends thusly: Jeannette, Sunnee, Jan, Mom, Auntie Jan, Aunt Jeannette, Grandma, Nama, GeeGee, or other ways, perhaps. Each of her names has stories woven around them, and within those many stories are a common thread: participation.
Jeannette was born at home, which placement guided her life forever after, even as she Den Mothered, Girl Scouted, Neighbored, Choired, Volunteered, Worked, Led, Bridged, Hostessed, Mexican Trained and took part wherever and however she was called to do. Birth was in Oak Park, Illinois to Grace and Joseph Thor, in a close-knit family neighborhood of Swedish-American Methodists. She and younger sister Evelyn were always surrounded by family, and by singing. Late in the 20’s, the Thors moved to the edge of the prairie, now-suburban Wheaton, where the girls, and later their brother David Lloyd II, attended school.
At Wheaton High School, Sunnee was involved with writing and the Script Club, where her nickname was awarded: A Warm and Sunnee Spot, from Winnie-the-Pooh. She participated in bands, orchestras, glee club, and a nationally recognized brass sextet. Upon graduation, she attended University of Dubuque, and in 1943 returned home to Wheaton, working in Chicago.
Also in 1943, the U.S. Army selected some particularly qualified soldiers for specialized and leadership training. A number were posted to Wheaton College. Mrs. Thor, of the local American Legion Auxiliary, invited a soldier and his buddy to a homecooked dinner. Arthur J. Murphy was the buddy. Before long, Art came to call her Jan, and they dated, became engaged, wrote daily, endured his deployment overseas, and upon his safe return, married on January 12, 1946.
Jan and Art, in three days short of seven years, honeymooned in Canada, lived, worked, studied, and changed addresses through NY, IL, IA, and CA (before those were even proper abbreviations), had three children, and bought a house in Palo Alto when it was so rural that a walk to school passed a dairy and afforded the opportunity to feed cows through the fence.
Between 1953 and 1963, Mom became also Auntie Jan, a camper, a bridge player, and practitioner of all the domestic arts one imagines or can recall in the suburban milieux of the era: baker, seamstress, beagle trainer, room mother, landscape designer, friend and confidante, explainer of kid imponderables, teacher of family values, sorter of priorities. The back yard fence had a gate to the neighbor’s house, and we learned about taking care of one another as if family. We learned to always vote; and always for Veterans’ benefits, and always for school bonds, as the first was duty, and the second, others earlier had done for us. And that everyone’s candidate selections were private.
After Palo Alto, there were Concord, and San Mateo, and Chico, and finally, Carmichael Oaks, where her writings were last published. There were high school times, and college times, and marriages, and grandchildren, and work, and volunteering, and losses, and joys, and more grandchildren, and UMW, and nearby nieces, and great-grandchildren, and visitors, and travels. All along the way there was writing, and correspondence, and calling to be in touch. It does not appear there was retirement, really. There was a lot to do for a participant.
Jeannette, Sunnee, Jan, Mom, Auntie Jan, Aunt Jeannette, Grandma, Nama, GeeGee – Jeannette Grace Thor Murphy – is survived by her beloved husband of 71 years, Art; Bruce and Terry Murphy, Marcia and Terry Quinn, Tom and Michelle Miller Murphy; six grandchildren: Robin, Bryan (Patricia), Jesse (Kyle), Phillip, Alison, and Colin; three great-granddaughters: Lily, Penny, and Kora; her sister Evelyn Thor Bolt and husband Richard, Art’s brother Francis Murphy and wife Marie (Midge), attendant nephews and nieces thereto; layerings of cousins; friends, former neighbors, and their children.
In lieu of flowers, you may know that her favorite charity was St. Labre Indian School (stlabre.org) or, since each of us has worthy and valuable non-profits we support, you should know that a donation to any charity of your choosing, in her honor, would have thrilled and humbled her greatly.