Gretchen Sieg Jaenicke, 77, of La Jolla, California, passed peacefully with her family at her side on July 1, 2014. Gretchen was truly a great wife, mother and friend to all she knew. She was fiercely devoted and loyal to those she loved. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1936 to parents, Arnold August Sieg and Grace (Brooks Messenger) Sieg, she was an only child growing up as the light of Arnie and Grace's life in Alton, Illinois. |
The most important thing to her over her 77 wonderful years was her family. As a young woman she spent many summers with her Aunt Grace in La Jolla, California, falling in love each summer with a new boy at Windansea beach. La Jolla would become a major part of her later life. After graduating High School in Alton, she met the love of her life, Ralph Monks Jaenicke, at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, where they both attended. They eloped and wed in 1955 in Chicago, Illinois, and began a love affair that would last 58 years, bearing three boys, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Gretchen made a warm and loving home for her growing family wherever they lived. Beginning in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where their first son, R. Duncan Jaenick, was born, while Ralph finished his college degree at The University of Illinois. Ralph worked for Firestone Tire and Rubber and, after a leave of absence for military service in the Air Force, they were transferred to Columbia, Missouri, where their second son, Kris Arnold Jaenicke, was born. A promotion took them to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1960 where their third son, Kurt Albert Jaenicke, was born. Ralph began work with US Rubber Company in 1964 based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and traveled extensively for his work covering Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. Gretchen would see him on the weekends as he flew home from work trips to drop off dirty shirts and leave with clean ones. In 1965 they returned to Ralph's hometown of Rockford, Illinois, to co-found with his father, Jaenicke Distributing, a wholesale liquor company that represented Hiram Walker in Northern Illinois. She raised three boys to men while in Rockford sending each of them to Big Ten Universities. Gretchen enjoyed a deep and fulfilling social life while in Rockford, creating many life-long friends with whom she would diligently stay in contact, trading Christmas newsletters extolling her family and allowing her to stay connected for many years to extended friends she loved. She and Ralph belonged to Rockford Country Club, participated in Ostende, (meaning welcome in Swedish) a formal dancing group that met monthly, worshiped God by singing in the Episcopal church choirs of Emanuel Episcopal and St Anskar's and was part of the Rockford Women's club that supported her community in many ways. She was a tremendous seamstress staying up late many nights to make formal evening gowns for Ostende, casual wear for traveling with Ralph to his leadership award trips and making individual Halloween costumes for her children based upon what they wanted to be that year. She, her Mother and Aunt Anne were also cross stitching and needlepoint mavens, upholstering the many family heirloom chairs that would grace her parents' home in La Jolla. Her favorite needlepoint creations of inspirational quotes decorated every kitchen she had, including "The Hurrier I Go The Behinder I get." She immersed herself in all things family by volunteering in each of her children's school libraries, using her earlier education as a librarian. She attended many high school sporting and theatrical events her sons participated in. A voracious reader, she earned the moniker, "Marian the Librarian" and her infectious laughter would brighten any room she was in as well as let her son's know she was in the audience.
Their stay in Rockford lasted until 1983 when she left her homemaker role and joined her parents in San Diego to become Ralph's business partner in the wholesale giftware business, Bethlehem Imports. She created her own line of jewelry she was famously known for wearing, "Gretchen of La Jolla." Gretchen and Ralph traveled together extensively to trade shows all over the United States making life-long friends on the road. They provided for their family by employing her oldest and youngest sons as well as Gretchen's Aunt Anne.
They retired in 2001 and moved to La Jolla in 2003 becoming a 3rd generation occupant of their beloved Dowling Drive residence. Gretchen cherished her time in La Jolla, participating and supporting the Social Service League of La Jolla whose mission is dedicated to providing affordable housing for those who have lived and worked in the San Diego area and who cannot otherwise afford housing after retirement. She was a parishioner of Saint James by-the-Sea, the Episcopal Church in La Jolla that her family has participated in since their arrival in La Jolla in the 1930s. She was intimately involved with the St James Gift Shop and the White Elephant Sale that provided support for the church she so loved and cherished. Moving to San Diego to join her parents was a life-long dream that she was able to fulfill for these last 31 wonderful years. Gretchen welcomed all of her family and many life-long friends to the home she had created in La Jolla, many of whom supported her as Ralph's caregiver until his death in 2013. Her life will forever leave an indelible mark in history in the "Jewel" of Southern California and she will be missed.
She is preceded in death by her parents, Arnold August Sieg and Grace Messenger Sieg, and her husband, Ralph Monks Jaenicke. She is survived by son, Duncan (Nada); granddaughters, Bethany Jaenicke and Grace (Richard) Peterson; great-granddaughter, Lilly Peterson of Charleston, South Carolina; granddaughter, Zorica (Elton); great-granddaughter, Viktoria; grandson, Nikola; and great-granddaughter, Gabriella, all of Charleston; son, Kris (Ann) of Hudson, Ohio; grandson, Nick (Samantha) Jaenicke of Austin, Texas; grandson, Ben (Monica) Jaenicke of Washington, D.C.; granddaughter, Katherine (Grant) Petersen, great-grandson, William Petersen of Decatur, Georgia; son, Kurt (Pamela) of Carmel, Indiana; granddaughter, Hannah Jaenicke; grandson, Nolan Jaenicke of Denver, Colorado; grandson, Nick Anderson of Steamboat Spring, Colorado; grandson, Cliff Anderson of Littleton, Colorado; and grandson, Curtis Anderson of Carmel, Indiana.
Memorial Services will be held on July 19, 2014, at 1pm at Saint James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla, California, with a reception following at the church.
Memorial contributions to the Social Service League of La Jolla or Scripps Hospice made in her name would honor the life she lived.
The family would like to thank Dr. Kosty and the staff at Scripps Cancer Care Center and the staff at Scripps Hospice for their care and support.
Published in La Jolla Light on July 10, 2014