CARBONDALE — Jean Marie Stratman Bernstein, smart, inquisitive and passionate professional; loving wife, mom and grandma; died from early-onset Alzheimer's March 28, 2019.
Jean was born Nov. 8, 1946, in Madison, Wisconsin, to Beatrice Ferne (Sardeson) and Bill Stratman, who both preceded her in death. Ferne was an active Lutheran, and Bill, a barber, was a 32nd degree Freemason. These factors influenced Jean's unwavering moral purpose.
Her school years featured academic success, learning to shoot a rifle in the Freemason's Rainbow Girls, and hanging out with her cat, Fluffy Ruffles. She almost followed her mother into her lifelong bookkeeping job, but in her senior year, the guidance counselor told her parents she had tested as brilliant and qualified for a full-ride to UW-Madison, so they said “okay.” This spurred her lifelong love of learning and discovery. She often quoted, “So many books and so little time!”
A German major, Jean joined the Madison-Freiburg junior year abroad. She returned to Madison four years later with a German medical-student husband and a 3-year old son. Following a short stint in Iowa City, the family settled in the wilds of Southern Illinois. After her divorce, she reinvented herself as a licensed clinical social worker. She went on to complete a doctorate in educational psychology from SIU and became a beloved faculty mentor to many practicum students at SEMO.
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In a Jungian study group in 1995 she found a new husband, Larry Bernstein, and they enjoyed 20 plus years of love, laughter, family and friends. Jean dived headlong into Larry's vibrant art world, loved witnessing Larry's creative energies in his home studio and joining him on one memorable pilgrimage to Oaxaca, Mexico. She loved gardening and tending her many cats, and enjoyed the Unitarian Fellowship, knitting, coffee, swimming and music. She was her children's biggest musical supporter, exemplified by her chaperoning underage son, Ted, so he could perform in local taverns, and later driving six hours to hear daughter Heike play concerts at the University of Illinois.
She is survived by her husband, Larry; children, Ted Petith (Beth Tryon) of Madison, Wisconsin, Heike (Greg) Smith of North Port, Florida, and Karl Petith (Jenna Bishop) of Portland, Oregon, as well as Larry's children Guido (Audrey) and Seth (Jennifer), and their families. She was a doting, fun, energetic grandmother to Charmaine, Clayton, Miles, Benjamin, Spencer, Eli and Jake who all survive her.
Favorite family memories are of sitting at the kitchen table eating her lasagna and famous brownies with special-recipe frosting. Her loved ones take comfort in knowing she is at peace and free from pain, and express their heartfelt appreciation for the wonderful staff at Integrity Healthcare and the hospice workers that cared for her with dignity as she battled the ravages of Alzheimer's.