Jean was working for an insurance company she applied to become Executive Director at the YWCA. Under Jean’s leadership, the YWCA reached out to the community in unprecedented ways. Recognizing an increase in abuse toward women, she established the Safe Choice Domestic Violence Shelter. She recalled, “The YWCA didn’t have the money [to rent the house], so I turned to my husband and son. Half an hour later, they came to me and said ‘We know you’d like to do this, and we know it’s needed. So that’s your Christmas present -- three months rent.’”
Jean pioneered other programs, reaching out to women in jail and to teenagers. Developing the YWCA’s teen program “was a wonderful thing,” Jean said, adding that she got “surrogate daughters….I still hear from some of them.”
Jean went on to serve as a consultant for the YWCA on the national level and in Canada and 19 other countries.
After her son served in the U.S. Air Force, she went into business with him and they founded Cascade Equipment Service. They worked together until his death in 2004. John, her husband of 63 years, had died one year earlier.
Jean was instrumental in establishing Vancouver’s Sister City relationship with Joyo, Japan. She served on Washington Governor Albert Rossellini's Status of Women Commission, Oregon Governor Tom McCall’s Drug Commission, Vancouver Mayor Al Angelo’s Teen Commission, Clark County’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) Commission, and the City of Vancouver International Affairs Commission, as well as being a charter member of Vancouver’s Fourth of July Committee. In addition, she has served on the boards of Soroptimist International, Meals on Wheels, N.A.A.C.P. of Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver Seaman’s Center, and the Salvation Army.
Jean has sparked a spirit of volunteerism at Cascade Retirement Inn, where she now lives. Jean formed a crocheting and knitting club whose members sew baby caps for infants at Southwest Washington Medical Center. Jean said proudly, “The ladies are so excited about it because they are thinking about new life.”
Over the years, Jean has been recognized as Clark County’s First Citizen and received the Woman of Achievement award from the Vancouver chapter of Business and Professional Women. She was also named Soroptimist of the Year for the Soroptimist Northwest Region.
Jean observed, “John Dunne said that no man is an island until himself. I never felt that I owned those awards, because it’s the people you work with and help in the community that get you there.”
At the vibrant age of 94, she also offered some advice to young people: “Take the word no – and the word never -- out of your vocabulary. Look to the future. I know that night will come, but there’s always another day.”