Early on the morning of December 13, 2020, Dr. Jacqueline Anne Deeb joined her heavenly family.
We can only imagine her shouts of joy as she greeted her father, Mike and her mother, Rose. Her beloved twin brother John will greet her too, as will her brothers Joe and George and her sisters Janette Yared and Julia. Janette’s husband Sam and Joe’s wife Eleanor will certainly join that celebration.
Jackie is survived by her nieces and nephews, whom she loved and treated as her own children – Michael (Sally) Deeb, Joseph (Ann) Deeb, David (Donna) Deeb, George Deeb, Marianne Yared McGuire, Thomas (Andrea) Yared, and Catherine (James) Brady. She is also survived by her many great-nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews, each of whom Jackie touched in immeasurable ways and in whose lives her memory will live on. Jackie is predeceased by her nephew, James Deeb and by her great-nephew, John Yared.
The family will always remember Jackie’s kindness, infectious smile and laugh, her strong religious beliefs and her always matching outfits and hats. We will miss our Aunt Jackie.
When she and her twin brother John were born on January 7, 1924, no one suspected what an independent spirit she would become.
Despite family tradition, this young teenage girl chose to attend public high school in East Grand Rapids. Following graduation, she continued her exploration of the outside world to study teacher education at the University of Chicago. World War II interrupted her study there. So, she finished her undergraduate training in elementary education in Grand Rapids at Aquinas College.
After teaching at Mount Mercy Academy, she joined the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a classroom teacher at Alger Elementary before being appointed principal at Shawnee Park Elementary. Then she was chosen for a special job and an awesome challenge as the principal at Sherwood Park Elementary.
But first, Jackie took a year’s leave in 1970 to earn her doctorate degree at Michigan State University. Her dissertation reflected her belief that all children can have a successful school experience if they believe in themselves. Jackie’s experience had convinced her that the key to that was positive teacher expectation.
In 1975, hundreds of Vietnamese families were welcomed to Grand Rapids. It was decided that their children would all attend the same elementary school, Sherwood Park. Our Jackie was the principal of this multi-cultural school. Appropriately, she called her school ‘The Rainbow School’. She led her staff in welcoming the non-English speaking pupils and their parents. The partnership that she helped forge between her staff, the Vietnamese families and the U.S. born community of Sherwood Park was remarkable; and the immigrant children thrived. Jackie became known to the school community as ‘The Rainbow Lady’. And, ‘The Grand Rapids Press’ named Jackie’s Sherwood Park Elementary the school of ‘Love’.
After Jackie retired in 1986, the school held a large open house in her honor in thanks for her tireless professional and personal dedication to the Sherwood Park children and families. They missed our Jackie, too.
Jackie dove into retirement with the same zest that she had for her teaching career. Whoever she met each day would be treated to the ‘Jackie Experience’: an enthusiastic greeting and understanding ear. She left each person with the feeling that they were special, and that they were someone who would always have Jackie as a friend. They shall miss our Jackie, too.
Wherever Jackie went she was greeted with "Hi Jackie!” by people who knew her – and everyone seemed to know her. And she always remembered them and greeted them warmly in return. At one of her favorite restaurants, Cherie Inn, the staff would greet her with a half-filled cup of hot, black coffee. They knew, you see, she wanted her favorite drink, hot.
Jackie loved to entertain. If it wasn’t a group of her girlfriends invited to her Orchard Hill home for an afternoon tea party, she welcomed family to join her to celebrate special occasions or to simply spend time together as a family.
She was most fond of having everyone over to celebrate Easter Sunday. Family came from all over Michigan and beyond each year. The children would have their Easter egg hunt and spend hours in her backyard children’s playhouse. Sometimes, her good friend Fr. Paul Milanowski would bring his guitar and sing songs for the kids. As each of us left her home, she was anxious that we leave with a snack for whatever trip lay ahead. As we drove away, you could always see her on the front porch throwing kisses. We shall miss our Jackie.
Others received treats, too. When she took her trash bags to the street for pick-up, she greeted her friends, the garbage men, and personally gave them a specially prepared treat as a thank you. This type of kindness was a regular occurrence for Jackie as many were the welcome recipients of her treats.
Her tiny car could regularly be seen parked at the Heartland Home where her brother John lived for several years. She would usually take the daily paper for him and Wendy’s shakes (the dollar size) for each of the staff and one for John’s roommate. She was devoted to John’s care, and was usually pleased with it. But when she was not, Dr. Jacqueline would rise to her full four foot something height to confront the head administrator. As those who knew Jackie were well aware, there was no fiercer advocate than Jackie Deeb.
After moving to Clark Retirement Community, Jackie’s smile and warm greeting was on display. Whenever she would accompany a visitor through the hallways, greetings of “Hi Jackie” would abound. Daily, always dressed in a splendid matching outfit, she would share her enthusiasm for life with her neighbors and staff at Clark. They quickly grew accustomed to Jackie listening to their stories and asking about their concerns and family members. She never disappointed. Our Jackie was a person who nurtured others, took genuine interest in others’ lives and truly believed that they counted for something. Jackie made everyone at Clark feel special and loved because to Jackie, they were.
Everyone will miss our Jackie.
A devout Catholic, Jackie lived by the tenants of her faith, devoted to her Catholic Church and community, with an ardent devotion to Mary, Joseph and praying the rosary. Jackie was a strong advocate for social and racial justice and accepted and loved all people (and canines!) in her wide circle of friends and family.
Jackie enjoyed life to the fullest making and retaining friends throughout her long life. She touched the lives of many people with her warm smile, contagious laugh and generous spirit. She had an adventuresome, fun-loving nature always showing great compassion for others in need. Her strong Catholic faith was a big part of her life and legacy and her family was extremely important to her. Jackie leaves behind a wonderful legacy of giving, sharing and a deep personal faith.
The family would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the staff at Clark Retirement Community who became her friends and who watched over her with so much care and love. Included in our thanks are the professionals at Emmanuel Hospice for the compassionate care they provided our Jackie in her final days.
Due to COVID-19, the funeral Mass will be postponed to Summer 2021.
Memorials can be sent to:
1551 Franklin SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
401 Hall St. SW #263
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Msg. Alt Annual Fund St. Stephen’s School
Attn: Cindy Thomas, Principal
740 Gladstone SE
East Grand Rapids, MI 49506
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