Jean Griffith, a very special beloved lady, went home to heaven on Sunday, March 30, 2014. Many family members and friends were privileged to say good bye during her brief illness. Her faith and strength were a great example and testament to the Lord for all who knew her. She was a blessing to everyone, and she herself was blessed to be active in life even downhill skiing only a few days before her passing.
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Jean was born in Corvallis, Ore. to Tom and Janet Kerns on July 15, 1932. As a young child, she was raised on a ranch in Wyoming and then Western Oregon, but the majority of her youth was spent on a farm in Eastern Oregon. There her life's experiences prepared her for many adventures.
One of her most vivid memories as a young girl was when her Dad started raising potatoes, and to save the crop, she and brother Mac had to pick gooey potato bugs off the plants. Though she would cringe at telling that story, the necessity of helping with harvest by operating equipment not only instilled a sense of accomplishment, but also encouraged her to enjoy school.
Education was of prime importance, so school attendance was accomplished by riding horseback to either Rock Creek or Muddy Creek Districts two or three miles from home. Because they were too small to saddle the horses themselves, Jean would make the lunches while younger brother Mac caught the horses and helped their Father get them ready. There was never enough tack, but the Kerns kids were envied because they could ride; so occasionally had to escape rocks being thrown at them. Jean rode a horse with a reputation and was once stopped and commanded; "Little girl get off that horse, that's a dangerous animal!" She was very familiar with her horse named "Silver" though, so remained undaunted by such a command. When it came to the challenge of a race, however, the beautiful girl riding that horse would take on the invitation and win with her dapple gray.
Jean was always an achiever, which she demonstrated in many ways. Learning to swim was a difficult challenge because just getting her face in the cold water was terribly hard, but through determination she overcame her fears and even became a life guard.
Other achievements included graduating as salutatorian of Baker High School and receiving a scholarship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to attend Stanford University in California, where she studied speech language pathology. As a young freshman there, it became necessary for her to have an emergency appendectomy even though far from home.
During her life guard job one summer in Baker, Jean met Tom Griffith and a new life's adventure began. Tom worked with the U.S. Forest Service at the time of their marriage on March 15, 1953 in Oregon. Later Tom joined the Navy so living in distant areas of the country such as Rhode Island and San Diego, Calif. became their beginning home locations. While her husband was on a ship in the ocean, however, their first son, Jerry, was born in Baker, Ore. and a later realization was discovered that Tom was having sympathy pains at the same time on board the ship off the coast of Japan.
Tom had determined to not make the navy a career and committed to memory, "back to the sticks by 56," so despite encouragement by officers to reenlist, went home and back to work for the U.S. Forest Service, and became a forest ranger. Thus began a life of periodically moving and thus Jean naturally assumed the role as "Matriarch" for people who lived on the Forest Service Compounds. Her level head and wisdom were an asset to many individuals in the 12 different locations and four different states they lived in during this time; and their three sons benefited as well. Youngest son, Randy, appreciated how his Mother would always give a wise answer with positive encouragement and a good direction to go without being pushy. Older son, Jerry, simply sums it up saying she was just a great Mom!
Son, Dan, recalls his Mother taking the boys to a river to play and seeing another young fellow swim across it. Upon inquiring about this, Jean told him, "Don't fight the current, you can make it. You'll end up downstream, but you can make it." Dan then swam the river and not only felt a great accomplishment, but learned a life's lesson.
After their years with the forest service and additional ranching experiences, Jean and Tom were moved to become Lay Ministers for the United Methodist Church, which they did for seven years at a church in Belgrade, Mont. During this time they continued to enjoy the outdoors and horses with pack trips to the wilderness, family canoeing on the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. More recent favorite outdoor activities have been skiing at Bridger Bowl in Montana, especially on family gatherings each February. Indoor talents included knitting, writing, cooking, making family history, church news, and other volunteering her focus in later years. Her husband, Tom, was the love of her life. As Tom says, "it was a wonderful life."
Jean is survived by her husband, Tom Griffith; sons, Jerry, Dan, and Randy with their spouses and eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, three brothers, a sister and many nieces and nephews.
Services will be held in Bozeman, Tuesday, April 1 at noon in the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church in town at 4769 West Babcock, Bozeman. Jean will be greatly missed.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Mar. 31 to Apr. 1, 2014