Jean Clarke Keating, whose diverse life ranged from rocket science to writing about her beloved Papillon lap dogs and other animals, died at her Williamsburg home on Feb. 12, 2013. She was 74.|
Jean was born on March 3, 1938 in Athens, Ga., home of the University of Georgia. In 1958, she graduated from the university with a degree in physics and mathematics. She was a lifelong, rabid fan of the Georgia Bulldogs.
In 1958, she became an aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Langley Research Center, initially working on pilotless aircraft research, eventually helping with rocket launches at Wallops Island. In 1960, she married NASA physicist Gerald Keating. During 1963-68, she worked on Project Scanner, developing an infrared star-mapping instrument to determine the exact point at which Earth's environment ends and space itself begins. For that work, she received NASA's Special Service Award in 1968.
During her NASA years she became active in the Hampton Junior Woman's Club and cultivated various hobbies: horseback riding, snow skiing, tennis, bridge, photography and international travels with Gerald.
In 1968, Jean resigned from NASA to spend more time on her civic interests, and to decorate her new home in Williamsburg. Her civic interests flourished. She served two terms as president of the Hampton Junior Woman's Club, and as president of the Hampton Girls Club. She also served as secretary on the board of directors of the Hampton Association for the Arts and Humanities.
In 1970 Jean was named Virginia's Outstanding Young Woman of the Year, partly for her work at NASA, and one of the 10 most outstanding young women in the United States. In 1971, she became director of special programs for the College of William and Mary's Virginia Associated Research Center in Newport News.
In 1973 she became assistant director of institutional research at the College of William and Mary. Four years later she received her master's degree in information systems from the George Washington University's Peninsula campus.
She remained active in volunteer work, chairing the Virginia Lung Association's regional health education committee, serving as president of the Williamsburg Woman's Club, and chairing the leadership development committee of the Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs.
In 1978, she began commuting to Richmond for her new position as information exchange coordinator for the Virginia State Council on Higher Education. In 1981, following a divorce, she began her love affair with Papillons, raising and showing them in competition.
Jean retired in 1998, and soon launched a new career, becoming a free-lance writer, speaker and author – and establishing Asta Publishers, which has published five novels authored by Jean: "Amorous Accident," "Pawprints on My Heart," "Pawprints through the Years," "Beguiling Bundle" and "Love's Enduring Bond."
With four fellow writers in the Chesapeake Bay Writers Group, which she served as president, Jean prepared "Published! Now $ell It!" She was also a book reviewer and columnist for Chesapeake Style magazine. Within the past month, she completed and published "Animal Heroes and Friends," a collection of stories by several authors.
Another of Jean's primary interests was southern history, including the Confederacy and the WBTS. She was a member of the Williamsburg Civil War Roundtable and a friend of the James City Cavalry Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp.
Jean was predeceased by her parents, Zack and Kitty Clarke.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on March 3, 2013 (Jean's birthday) at Nelsen Funeral Home, 3785 Strawberry Plains Rd.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Heritage Humane Society, 430 Waller Mill Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185, or online at www.heritagehumanesociety/donate. Online condolences may be expressed at www.nelsencares.com and www.vagazette.com .
Published in Virginia Gazette from Feb. 16 to Mar. 15, 2013