Dec. 7, 1917 – September 22, 2016
Jean was born December 5, 1917, Vancouver, BC, first child of Jessie West and Walter Barron. Oldest sister to Lily, Marjorie and Gladys, Jean, at nine years old unable to walk from being struck by a car, was given dance lessons for rehabilitation and she became a dancer, singer, actress. Born into World War 1, Russian Revolution, global influenza pandemic, deep economic depression, Jean – through the common human gifts of imagination, grace and courage – found excitement in awakening every morning, and she determined to see the beauty and wonders of the world.
Jean danced in the Billy Rose Aquacade in New York at the 1939 World’s Fair sharing the stage with illustrious names like Buster Crab, Bing Crosby, Esther Williams, Fred Waring, Johnny Weissmuller, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James and Count Basie. She and Oscar “Bud” Smiset were married November 1, 1939 at the Little Church Around the Corner in New York City. In 1944 they returned to the Pacific Northwest where they raised their two children, where Jean put on performances for the armed forces and taught dance to hundreds of children, and where Bud worked for upgraded regulation of fission byproduct storage with half-life of 24,100 years in a then top-secret job at Hanford. Wanting to promote a healthy, safe and sustainable future, Bud testified post-retirement to Senate Armed Forces Committee on the need for continual upgrading of regulations for storage.
During their 64 year marriage, Jean and Bud fullfilled their mutual dream of traveling around the world, visiting every continent, feeling as if London were their second home; however they especially loved returning home to the United States, to Richland for seven years, then Sunnyside for 25 years, then Manzanita for 35 years where they felt deeply at home at St Catherine’s Episcopal Church and with the Manzanita community.
Statue of Child Reading given by Bud and Jean Smiset
Jean dared to dream, worked to have her dreams become reality, encouraged others to do the same, and coined some words, like Sharadream, and lived some words like Carpe Diem. Jean came from community living every moment of life of life at the scale of family to the scale of the world from these words: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst”
Beyond words and measure, Jean loved her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. She visited schools in all six continents, shared her love of dance by providing dance classes and choreography skills for scores of productions.
As Jean passed, she felt comforted knowing she was held in prayer by her Manzanita community and by music composed to her breathing and heart beat provided through the compassionate work of Providence Hospice. Jean was blessed by the caregiving staff and community at Elite Care Oatfield Estates where she could live a life with freedom until the very end including being in the abundance of nature where Jean passed peacefully after enjoying visits from dear friends and family.
Survivors include her son Don Smiset (Katherine Smiset) of Albuquerque, New Mexico and daughter Dana Toomey (Mel Toomey) of Goshen, Connecticut, Grandchildren Brian Smiset (Shannon Apodaca), Rio Rancho, NM, Scott Smiset (Tik Higgins), Hatch, NM, Kirsten Smiset-Ortiz (John Ortiz) Albuquerque, NM John Toomey, Oneonta, NY, Greatgrandchildren Christopher Smiset, Las Lunas, NM, Devon Smiset, Rio Rancho, NM, Tiffany Smiset, Las Cruces, NM, Leah Hamner, Albuquerque, NM, Mikayla Ortiz-Smiset, Albuquerque, NM, Hannah Smiset-Ortiz, Albuquerque, NM, Emma Smiset-Ortiz, Albuquerque, NM, Jessica Grindstaff (Erik Sanko) with her great-great granddaughter, Freya Sanko, New York, NY.