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Jeanette Leaman Heard


1922 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Jeanette Leaman Heard Obituary
Jeanette Leaman Heard
1922-2017
Jeanette Leaman Heard died on April 25, 2017 — her 95th birthday — following a day of celebration with family and friends. Jeanette was a pillar of South Main Baptist Church, a pioneer in building relationships with the Japanese community in Houston, and an example to her family and friends of a life devoted to service. When macular degeneration robbed her of sight, and she could no longer be in the world helping others, she longed to be with her husband of 73 years, Frank L. Heard, Jr, who died on March 7, 2016. We take comfort in the knowledge that they are now reunited.
Jeanette was born in Rosenberg, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University in 1943, the year in which she married Frank, a lieutenant in Army counterintelligence. The war took them to Omaha, Spokane, Oklahoma City, Baltimore, and Ann Arbor. And, in 1945, the war took Frank to Japan to participate in the war crimes trials, sparking a fascination with the country that he shared with Jeanette on his return. For the next 70 years, Japan was one of three great passions in her life. She was a founder of the Japan-America Society in Houston. She took pleasure in Japanese art, culture, and customs. She studied the language, and, when language study proved stubborn, she moved to Japan for six months in order to speak it every day and to teach English. She loved Japan's culture of elegance and restraint, but most of all she loved the people, whom she came to know by the hundreds — most of them the wives and children of doctors and researchers who came to the Houston Medical Center for two or three-year stays. She hosted them in her home, she looked out for them when they were friendless, she taught them English, and she corresponded with them over decades. Many she treasured as the closest of friends. In recognition of this commitment, the Emperor of Japan awarded her the Order of the Sacred Treasure with Gold and Silver Stars, the Japanese counterpart of the Order of the British Empire.
She was devoted to God and her church. She taught Sunday School every week for 64 years. She was the first woman to serve as a deacon at South Main Baptist Church; the first to be named an "honor" deacon; the first to chair the Coordinating Committee, which oversaw the work of all the church committees; and the first to serve on, then chair, the Christian Education Coordinating Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Most important to her, she was one of three founders of South Main International Learning Experience (SMILE), a program that offers hospitality to hundreds of women from abroad. For more than 50 years, she taught these women English, introduced them to American culture, and helped them to navigate Houston.
A perfectionist in all that she did, she excelled in the most demanding of all her "jobs" — as wife, mother, and grandmother. Her family came before everything else. Her marriage of more than seventy years succeeded because, as she once said, they found ways to serve together, pray together, and give together. She loved her children — and those they chose to love. And she loved her grandchildren unconditionally and held precious her time with them.
She is survived by her daughter, Shelley Williamson and her two daughters, Jessica and Kirsty Williamson; by her son, Lane Heard, and his wife, Margaret Bauer, and their four children — Ethan, Peregrine, and Clarion Heard, and Emily Knickerbocker; and by her "adopted" daughter, Keiko Kinsey.
A memorial service celebrating her life will be held on June 24, 2017 at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main Street, Houston, Texas at 10:00 am.
Published in Houston Chronicle on May 7, 2017
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