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Obituaries » Jean M. Austin (nee Switzer)

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November 28, 1953 - October 15, 2023

A private celebration of life service is planned on Friday, October 20. The family requests that you make a donation in Jean’s honor to Kairos Dwelling Hospice or the Animal Rescue Project in lieu of gifts or flowers.

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Jean Marie (Switzer) Austin, 69, of Portage, MI, came to the end of her adventures on October 15 after an 11-month journey through cancer treatment, passing peacefully in her home.

Jean was born on November 28, 1953 to Marvin and Nancy (Wright) Switzer in Kalamazoo, MI. Her youth was spent surrounded by animals with much time traveling to horse shows and a time when the family lived in an animal hospital before they moved to their family home on 25th Street. She had a lot of happy memories from a childhood well spent and learned from animals how to love unconditionally.

She graduated from Portage Central High School in 1971. After high school she received her associate degree in nursing from Jackson Community College in 1980 and her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in 2001. Jean worked as a registered nurse at Foote Hospital and at Bronson Hospital. Her passion was caring for the smallest and most vulnerable patients, working most of her career in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Jean’s greatest love in life was her family. She married Dr. Robert J. Austin on July 5, 1997 and their marriage was celebrated with fireworks every year after. She was the proud mother to Joshua Wesley Cunningham & Sarah Marie (Cunningham) Kusisto with Craig Cunningham, Samantha Leigh (Daugherty) Pfost with Joseph Daugherty and her extended family of children: Becca (Burkel) Cunningham; Brendan Kusisto; Kyle Pfost; John and Genie Austin; Daniel and Jennifer Austin; Reverend Timothy Austin; and Stephen and Katrina Austin. She also drew immeasurable joy from her grandchildren: Hailey Savannah Cunningham, Benjamin Wesley Cunningham, Dylann Marie Austin, Ella Grace Cunningham, Leah Marie Kusisto, Jacob Timothy Kusisto, Natalie Isabelle Austin, John Vincente Austin, Caleb Robert Austin, Lydia Jean Austin, Jasmine Jean Pfost, Jack Robert Pfost and Andrew Raphael Austin.

People were drawn to Jean’s genuine warmth and friendly (often dry) sense of humor. It didn’t take long for Jean to have a positive impact on those who the Lord placed in her path. Whether she was taking them to lunch, offering advice, or supporting them to achieve some greater goal, Jean’s wisdom was always freely shared, usually when asked. Jean never met a vegetable she liked (and only a few she tolerated) which led to some disagreements with nutritionists over the years. She drank only iced tea and abhorred milk, though butter pecan ice cream was always a winner. Her nutritional choices notwithstanding, Jean was a vibrant woman, active in her children and grandchildren’s lives, often driving her grandchildren to and from activities and surprising her children with gifts small and large, including whole kitchen renovations!

Jean was a selfless, loving mother, grandmother, sister, and wife. She was her family’s source of strength and advice. Her loss is felt deeply by all of her family and friends. Jean is survived by her children, grandchildren, her beloved husband, Uncle Chuck and Aunt Mary Lou Switzer, her older sister Gail (Mark) Shahan, and her brothers and sisters from the Austin family; Chuck (Jess) Austin, Tom (Sally) Austin, Mary Anne (Terry) Needham, Richard Austin, Dave Chambers, and Janet (Robert) Damon. She was preceded in death by her parents and her sister-in-law Cathy Chambers.