Jean Keenan Jurusik, former teacher and mentor, passed away on June 17, 2021, at her daughter’s home in Rye, N.Y. She was born in West Virginia, but in her teens moved to Elmira, N.Y., where she had a home for the rest of her life.
Education was the light that shone in every aspect of her life. Nothing was more thrilling to her than teaching someone to read.
After receiving bachelor and master’s degrees from Elmira College, she continued taking classes, and joined the faculty as an educational supervisor, mentoring students. She retired from the Horseheads School District in upstate New York, where she was an elementary classroom teacher and a reading and testing specialist.
Her children often remember being stopped on the street or in a store by one of their mother’s former students who told her how much they appreciated her commitment to their success.
She loved history and poetry, music, and literature and drama. She committed scores of poems and songs and stories to memory. Her capacity for books and information was remarkable.
A valued partner of her husband Gene, who worked in the construction and real estate development business in Elmira Heights, hers was the first ear he turned to. She helped him with all the administrative aspects of the business. Mrs. Jurusik volunteered for a number of local charities and helped out at their events, and she joined her husband in his philanthropic support of a broad array of community activities in and around Elmira and the Heights.
Jean and Gene loved being able to spend so much time with their grandsons Nate and Josh when they were growing up and were enthusiastic supporters and followers of their school and athletic activities as they progressed through the Cohen and Edison schools.
Jean assumed and expected kindness and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of life. Her children were told regularly that teachers were not there to win a popularity contest.
She loved West Point, Notre Dame, and the New York Yankees, who dutifully made an historic triple play within hours of her passing and, in the same game, made sure there were runners on base when they hit their home runs.
An early adopter of healthy living, she always belonged to a gym, did Jack LaLanne in the living room when he first came on television, took line dancing and tai chi, and walked with Helen Guidus at the mall before the stores opened.
It took her children a long time to break the diet rules she set: no jelly on toast, no candy, no soda, fruit for dessert. She left this earth without crow’s feet, which she attributed to good skin care and limited alcohol. Her hair didn’t gray until she was almost 80, and she suffered no major illnesses until 2016 when the death of her son Peter broke her heart.
“Always smiling and resilient, Jean was unique and beautiful inside and out,” said her family. In her final years, she was loved and cared for by Irma and Maria and Jessie and Lisa, but no caregiver gave her more comfort than her son-in-law Tim, who always made sure she had fresh flowers, a fully stocked birdfeeder outside her windows, a steady arm to lean on, and a strong scotch at the end of a particularly trying day.
In addition to her son Peter, she was predeceased by her husband, Eugene Edward Jurusik. She is survived by her son David, who resides in Purcellville, Va., her son Matthew and his wife Wendy of Elmira and Tampa, Fla., her daughter Kay and her husband Tim Yates of Rye, N.Y.; and her daughter-in-law Hedi, who lives in Starkville, Miss. Mrs. Jurusik also leaves her 15 beloved grandchildren. Dozens of nieces and nephews brightened her life, but she especially cherished her nephew, Jason Jurusik, for his enduring love and support.
A memorial mass will be held Saturday, June 26 at 11 a.m. at Church of the Resurrection in Rye, followed by a reception at Apawamis Club. A memorial will be held at a later date in Elmira.