Jean Jordanek, 90, of Ithaca, NY, died November 9, 2021, at the home of her daughter Melinda after a brief illness. Her most recent residence was McGraw House in Ithaca, where she had many friends. She was buried on Sunday, November 14, at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve. A memorial reception will be held on Sunday, December 12, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the community room of East Pointe Apartments, 15 East Pointe Drive, Ithaca (near the airport). Please come for light refreshments and to share your memories of Jean.
Born July 14, 1931, in Watertown, NY, Jean was the daughter of Louise and Harvey Robbins. In 1938, when she was 7, her family took over her grandparents’ farm in Lacona, NY, and it became her beloved childhood home. She attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, where she met her first husband, Charles Pepper, with whom she had four children. The family lived in Kentucky, Charles’ birthplace, then New Jersey, and finally Ithaca. Several years after Charles’ death in 1976, she married Ken Jordanek, who died in 1987. Jean taught kindergarten for many years, first at East Hill School and then at Caroline Elementary. She left teaching to establish a daycare in her Cayuga Heights home, and later served on a substitute basis at a local Montessori school before finally retiring when it became too hard to get up from the floor after sitting down to play with the kids. She touched the lives of many children over the years, and remained friends with some of the families for decades.
Children’s issues were of paramount importance to Jean, and she put her beliefs into action in her later years by helping found the Babies First program of the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, which she coordinated for many years. Still in existence, the program provides free baby equipment and supplies to needy families in the area. She also was a strong believer in social justice and was involved in the diversity committee at McGraw House. She was a longtime member of the Ithaca Textile Guild and is the author of several unpublished works, including Farm Journal, a series of poems about the farm where she grew up, and Bess of the Shanties, a story for young readers about a girl growing up in a squatters’ community on the Cayuga Inlet in the mid-1800s.
Jean is survived by her four children, Rebecca Pepper of Portland, OR; Melinda Berard of Ithaca, NY; David Pepper of Ithaca, NY; and Sara Pepper of Moscow, ID, as well as five grandchildren. She loved keeping up with all of the activities of her children and their families and was always ready to listen to the latest news of their lives. She was especially fond of keeping track of the weather in all of their many locations.
Contributions in Jean’s memory can be made to the McGraw House Resident Emergency Expense Fund (send a check to McGraw House REEF, 419 McGraw House, Ithaca, NY 14850) or to the Babies First fund (go to https://unitarian.ithaca.ny.us for information and to donate).