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Jeanne Behrens Bechtel

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Jeanne Behrens Bechtel Obituary
Jeanne Behrens Bechtel's gentle, caring spirit blended with her courage in the face of adversity to set examples of affection and determination for her family and friends. She was a mother, wife, sister, grandmother and great grandmother who believed in you even when you didn't believe in yourself. She stared down her own tragedies by remembering good times and looking forward. This was the way she approached life for nearly a century. She passed away May 7, 2017 at 95. Whether you knew her as Jeanne, mom, grandma or great-gran, you knew her as someone who praised your strengths and did not judge your weaknesses. She filled the role of Army wife, parent, grandparent and pal with equal facility. Her holiday dinners were delicious, belt-busting spreads. They came with all the trimmings of grace and class, but none of the pretentions. She remembered birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions because they mattered to her, not because she was reminded by a smartphone app. She decorated for holidays, especially Christmas, with a meticulous attention to detail that let you know doing so was a celebration, not an afterthought. For as long as she was able to ride in a car she reveled in the Christmas light show at Newport News Park. That's who she was – a truly decent person who found contentment in simple pleasures. Jeanne gathered for decades with friends in what they called the Stitch and Bitch Group. Typically, she did more stitching than bitching. Born and raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., the second oldest of six children, she knew the joys and challenges of a large family. She was pressed early on into laundry duty and babysitting when her father died and her mother had to work to support the family. Jack Bechtel, the handsome young enlisted man with whom she fell in love, came from humble circumstances, but blossomed into a fine Army officer. Before he took her to New Orleans, Germany, France, Italy and Alaska on tours of duty, he took her into Manhattan for walks and shows and out to the suburbs to listen to a skinny teenaged singer named Frank Sinatra croon at a club called the Log Cabin. Jeanne had an adventuresome spirit that Jack enabled. As a young Army wife whose husband was part of the Marshall Plan, Jeanne sat in a courtroom in Nuremberg watching Nazi architects of crimes against humanity held to account. Jeanne and Jack had three daughters - Joanne, Janis and Joyce - and raised them all with the same sense of right and wrong and the same wanderlust. Jeanne battled to live independently for as long as she could. She cooked for herself, hauled herself up and down the steps of a two-story townhouse for years on arthritic knees and hosted friends for coffee. After illness forced her to move to The Gardens nursing home, it was a relatively common sight to find Jeanne and members of her family gathered around a couple of card tables pushed together eating a dinner home-cooked by her daughter Janis. Janis also saw to it that her mom celebrated the seasons and holidays with decorations in her room. Jeanne Behrens Bechtel was preceded in death by her husband Lt. Col. (ret.) John Morris Bechtel and her daughter Joyce Bechtel. Her daughter Janis Bechtel Spencer died July 14, 2018. Jeanne is survived by daughter Joanne Bechtel Turrell (wife of Peter Turrell) of Odessa, FL, grandchildren Jesse Spencer (husband of Dawn Hutchinson) of Poquoson, VA, Cody Spencer of Los Angeles, CA, Stephanie Turrell Stenger (wife of Scott Stenger) of St. Petersburg, FL, Doug Turrell of Tampa, FL, and great grandchildren Piper Hutchinson Spencer of Poquoson, VA, and Madison and Connor Stenger of St. Petersburg, FL. She is also survived by brothers John Behrens of Skaneateles, NY and Everett Behrens of Effort, NY, and sister Lenora Pitcher of Dallas, TX. A memorial service for Jeanne Bechtel will be held in conjunction with a service for her daughter Janis Bechtel Spencer on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Tabernacle Methodist Church, 831 Poquoson. Ave., Poquoson, VA 23662.
Published in Daily Press on Aug. 12, 2018
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