July 13, 1958-November 6, 2015
Jean Ann (Rickard) Donnelly, 57, of Chesterton, IN passed away in her home on November 6, 2015.
Jean was born on July 13, 1958 in Evanston, Illinois to Theodore and Maureen (Sheehan) Rickard. Jean grew up in Evanston as the second of five children and graduated from St. Athanasius grammar school and Regina Dominican High School. At Regina, she was a basketball phenom who led her team to multiple undefeated seasons. Jean went to the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign for her undergraduate degree, where she met her future husband, John Donnelly, of Dekalb, Illinois. Jean and John married on January 13, 1979 in Evanston, and Jean finished her bachelor’s degree in interior design via correspondence course. Jean spent several years as a homemaker for her husband and four children, and as they moved frequently around the country in the early years of their marriage, she was an active and dedicated member of every community she called home.
Jean’s volunteer work included being a room mother , volleyball/basketball/softball coach, and Girl Scout Leader, along with helping with many other church and school activities. She rejoined the professional world as her children got older, first as the gym teacher at Notre Dame Elementary School. She held the position of Superintendent of Municipal Services in Michigan City, IN from 1996-1998 and was commended for her improvements to the city’s public services during her tenure. When Jean and her family moved to Overland Park, Kansas in the fall of 1998, she became involved in her children’s new elementary school – Cure of Ars – and assumed the position of Athletic Director for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) at that school, a position she held for several years, culminating with the gym at the school being named after her upon her departure. While holding that role, Jean earned her Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas in May 2006.
Shortly after receiving her masters’ degree, Jean was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare salivary gland cancer. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and overcame difficult odds to resume a full and active life. Though her cancer reappeared a few years later in her lungs, Jean continued to volunteer, work, and be another mom to most of the people in her life – she was a constant source of strength and support for her community by helping people move, getting folks to and through college, making t-shirt quilts, putting finances in order, and generally being there for whatever anyone needed. Jean continued to work as athletic director for Cure of Ars, as well as for Richter & Reda accounting firm, and she volunteered for Teach For America when they opened their Kansas City region and then held a part-time role for two years on TFA’s Chicago summer institute team.
Shortly after moving back to northwest Indiana in October 2008, Jean began volunteering for Marquette Catholic High School (which two of her children had attended), and then assumed the role of Academic Advisor on staff. In that position, she designed schedules, created and taught college preparatory classes, led college campus visits, and worked with students one-on-one to get them into college and ensure they were financially able to attend. Her dedication to a strong and well-rounded education came through clearly in every interaction she had with everyone she touched.
Jean is survived by her husband, John, her children Shannon of Chesterton, Erin (Nate) Donnelly Jones of Salt Lake City, UT, Kathleen (Brian) Hobert of Salt Lake City, UT, and William of Chicago, IL. She was blessed with five grandchildren: Lorelai, Sylas, Audrey, Ainsley, and Lennon. She is also survived by her father Theodore and his wife Audrey, her sister, Drew, and three brothers, Theodore, Mark, and James (and their partners and children), and her large extended family of in-laws, step-relatives, nieces, nephews, and cousins, as well as the “Haci Posse” of Long Beach, IN whom she considered a part of her family. She was preceded in death by her mother, Maureen, her father-in-law William, and her brother-in-law Frank.
Family and friends will gather on Saturday, November 14 at Notre Dame Church in Michigan City, Indiana for a brief reception at 9:30am followed by a funeral mass at 10:30am. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Jean’s name to the Girl Scouts of America or the Marquette Catholic High School Scholarship Fund.
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