February 8, 1939 - September 1, 2019
A Memorial in Jean’s honor will be held at a later date this Fall.
Jean Wenz left this life on Sept. 1, 2019, warmly surrounded by her children, grandchildren, sisters, and her best friends. She had been struggling for a few years with failing health, loss of mobility, chronic pain, and just general weakness and decline. Her characteristic wit, and sharp mind never deteriorated, and she remained astute, humorous, and politically active to the end. She suggested: “I Had a Fantastic Life!” as a eulogy to her.
She is survived by three children and spouses: Brent Michael Laker (Karen), Brian Paul Laker (Jennifer), Brenda Marie Laker; Four grandchildren: Zane Laker, Derrick Laker, Alek Webster, and Phillip Converse; several nieces and nephews. Three sisters also survive: Judith McWatters of Three Rivers, Dr. Janice Werbinski, and JoAnn Verburg, both of Portage.
Jean lived a very active, adventurous, fun-filled life. No new adventure was ever turned aside. Her curious spirit led her to many hair-raising, death-defying escapades. She was thrown by a horse (which landed on her), run over by a tractor, and endured several automobile and motorcycle accidents, resulting only in broken bones and bruises. Two years ago, she fell and broke two of the most essential vertebrae of her neck, yet suffered no damage to her spinal cord. All felt she was like a cat with nine (or more) lives. But, sadly, she couldn’t cheat that final calling which we all face. In short, she lived a long, exciting, audacious, venturesome life.
It was very important to her that her children become productive, independent, brave, and liberated adults. She tried to instill those qualities by example, as well as direction. Though she didn’t see her grandchildren often, she loved them dearly and was as proud of them as she was of her own children.
She often said that she felt absolute and complete love from her late husband, Paul, with whom she will be buried at Fort Custer Cemetery. He was very kind, respectful, and appreciative of the marriage which bonded and affiliated them. She was loyal to her faithful best friend, Maggie Mosher. Even after living in distant homes for many years, when Jean returned to Kalamazoo with her husband 10 years ago, their friendship picked up exactly where it left off.
And this summary wouldn’t be complete unless we mentioned her political activism. She was county clerk in the small town of Brimson, Minnesota for many years, and when she returned to Portage, she volunteered at the polls, and counted absentee ballots for elections. She was a staunch advocate for social programs which help the underserved, universal healthcare, sane gun laws, and fair immigration policies. Her grandparents were Polish immigrants who would not have survived without their emigration to the U.S.