Mrs. M. Jean Kern was born on January 28, 1931 in Fountain Green, IL, the daughter of Elmer and Nellie Proffitt Bouseman, one of 10 children. On June 7, 1953 she married Willard Kern in Fountain Green. Willard died in a military plane crash in Panama on April 30, 1970.
Jean attended school in Fountain Green, a member of the last graduating class of that school, and she also graduated from LaHarpe High School in 1949. She studied for two years at WIU. She traveled around the world with her husband as he moved from posting to posting in the Air Force. They lived in many places around the country and the world, including Japan, Thailand, and Panama. After her husband’s death, she moved to Texas where she worked as a bookkeeper for the Texas public school system. Jean moved to Macomb in 2013. She enjoyed word games, bowling, playing cards, and especially time spent with friends and family.
She died Sunday, September 27, 2015 at the Grand Prairie in Macomb. She was 84 years old.
Survivors include one brother, Don Bouseman of Barrington, IL, one sister-in-law, Franciene Bouseman of LaHarpe, IL, several nieces and nephews, and two close friends from Texas, Ken Potter and Betty VanAlstyne.
She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, five brothers and three sisters.
Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, we come today and mourn the loss of Jean Kern, but we also celebrate her life. We thank you for giving her life, and we thank you for the impact she had on the lives of so many who are here today. Help us today to remember Jean, and comfort us with the knowledge that this life is not all there is. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Jean Kern lived a full life, and was loved by many of her friends and family. She was a fiercely independent woman, who always wanted to do things for herself, but also had a soft spot for her family.
Jean was a wonderful aunt to the Jackson kids. (Some of the few people she still allowed to call her Jeannie). They often described her as being much like a second mother to them—only she spoiled them a lot more! The boys loved being around Aunt Jeannie, and the feeling was mutual. As a matter of fact, David started Kindergarten in Alabama, because he was staying with Jean at the time!
Jean loved the small town of Fountain Green growing up, and considered it a privilege to call it her hometown. She loved the blessings of small-town living, but she also enjoyed the experiences she had living in different places with Willard. Everywhere that Willard was assigned, Jean followed and lived with him, with only one exception—his posting in Alaska. She enjoyed her experiences living abroad, and had the opportunity to travel extensively. She spent four years living in Thailand during the Vietnam War, and didn’t return home at all during that time. Instead, she took the opportunity to see that part of the world. She loved to tell the story about the Indian woman she met who was amazed that Jean had been to the Taj Mahal, but she (who grew up in India) had not!
Jean understood the risks her husband took in serving their country, but sometimes the planes he flew made her uneasy. Unfortunately, one day she got the call she hoped never to receive, the call that told her that her husband had died in a plane crash. Jean showed remarkable resiliency in this. After 17 years of marriage, she now needed to pick up the pieces and start over. She came home to begin the next phase of life. She never did remarry.
Jean decided to move to Texas, and Kathy helped her move and get settled. Jean bought a house and found a new career as a bookkeeper for the Texas Public Schools. This suited her well, as she was a very organized and detail-oriented person by nature. While in Texas Jean made some good friends and had fun working on her house, doing yard work, shopping, and bowling.
She also liked to eat good food. If you came to visit, Jean could tell you all of the best places to eat in San Antonio!
Jean was not eager to return to Illinois, not because she didn’t like Illinois, but because she knew it was a sign that she was getting older and needed to give up some independence. She didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, and didn’t want to need anyone else’s help…but she recognized that it was time.
She did not, however, go quietly. When Roger and John arrived at her house to pick her up, she opened the door, saw it was them, and then slammed the door in their faces! She eventually let them help her pack things up and prepare for the trip back to Illinois. She rode with Roger on the trip home, while John drove her car. After arriving back, she remarked to John that she didn’t think her little car had ever moved as fast as it did when he drove it! She missed her home in Texas, but was grateful she had family that cared for her so much.
When the time came to make the decision to move from the assisted living community to the nursing home, Jean didn’t fight it, though she still didn’t like the idea. She passed away before having to move to the nursing home—she knew her time had come, and she was ready to go.
When you look back on a life like Jean’s, it is encouraging to see a woman who lived life with gusto. She took the setbacks she faced in stride and lived with dignity to the very end. There is a part of us that is glad that Jean died before she had to go to the nursing home—and yet there is another part that is sad, because there is now a void in our lives where Jean had been.
As we stand at a graveside, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this it?” Is this really all there is? Is the whole point of life to live, love, work, and then die? In the Bible, Jesus tells us that this life is not all there is. He said to his disciples,
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am
Jesus tells us there is life that exists after this life. He reminds us that this life is merely a prelude to the one that is to come. He is telling us that Heaven is a real place, and that those who follow Him really go there.
Many people like the idea of heaven and would even claim to believe that when you die you go to heaven. The question is, how do get to Heaven? Many think that everyone who dies automatically goes to Heaven, but that isn’t what the Bible says. Jesus tells us that the only way to Heaven is to trust and follow Him. He said that we can’t trust in our own supposed goodness, or in who we know, our only hope is to trust in Jesus Christ and to follow Him as we live our lives.
I don’t know where exactly Jean stood in her relationship with the Lord, my hope was that she had trusted in Jesus Christ to save her. What I can tell you for certain is this—if Jean had a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, then today she is with Him in Heaven.
As we stand here today, we are reminded that each one of us will also one day face death, and the question of what happens after we die is not merely theoretical. As we stand at a graveside, it becomes immensely practical. Let me encourage you today to think deeply about this for yourself. What are you trusting in? Who are you following? Can you be sure where you will go after you die? If you are unsure—or you hope that God will let you into Heaven, I hope today you will make sure. Place your trust in Jesus Christ, and trust Him to forgive you. If you will follow Him, when you die, you will spend eternity with Him.
This is our hope today. Our comfort is that this life is not all there is. There is still a life that is to come. But while we are here, we should take with us lessons from the life of Jean Kern. We learn that you should keep working hard, even when life gets difficult. When things are tough, you can complain, or you can do something about it. Jean did the latter, and had many fun experiences to show for it. We learn the importance of caring for family, and recognize that if we work hard at maintaining strong relationships with family, those relationships will remain strong till the day we die. And we are reminded that questions of faith are not merely theoretical in nature. At the end of it all, there is no question that is more important than whether what Jesus said is true. If we can say for certain that we follow Jesus, then we do not need to see a gravesite as a place of hopelessness and loss, but a place of hope, a place that reminds us that this life is not all there is.
Will you pray with me?
Father, today I pray for this family. Be with them as they grieve the loss of a dearly loved family member. Comfort them with memories of the woman they all loved and bind them to one another. Most of all Lord, please help them to see you. Comfort them with the promise that this life is not all there is. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.