Jeanne Marie Klem, nee Yuncker, formerly of Summers Drive in South Bend, passed away Thursday, January 6, 2022, at Wellbrooke of South Bend from complications of COVID-19. She had her two vaccinations and was awaiting the booster shot.
Jeanne was born February 10, 1922, to August Elizabeth and George Albert Yuncker at her parents’ home in Frankfort, IN. In 1926, they moved to South Bend as her father became the owner of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. All 5 of her father’s brothers had Coca-Cola plants, and it all began with their father and the Yuncker Bottling Works in Loudonville, OH. Eventually, her father, brother, John M. “Jack”, and her husband, Bill, successfully led the Coca-Cola Bottling plant in South Bend for several decades.
During the depression, each time the rent went up, mom said that dad moved us. It was a given that she and her brother, Jack, would walk to elementary school. So, they either lived in the neighborhoods near Thomas Jefferson or Holy Cross schools. In 1940, Jeanne graduated from St. Mary’s Academy. That fall, she enrolled at Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri. At the end of her freshman year, she returned to South Bend and enrolled at Saint Mary’s College, graduating in 1944 with a degree in sociology. She then took a job with the St. Joseph County Welfare Department, where she made home visits to elderly clients.
While at St. Mary’s, she met her future husband, William “Bill” Klem, Jr. They were introduced by Don Claeys, who grew up with mom and Jack in South Bend, and then attended Notre Dame with Bill as part of the Naval program during WWII. Jeanne and Bill were married on September 3, 1947, at the original St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in South Bend. In 1951, they bought their first home in McKinley Terrace, where they joined other returning veterans and their young families. As their family grew, they built their Summers Drive home in 1957, living there until 2017. It was the ideal setting in which to raise their five children – woods to build forts, Juday Creek to fish and “pretend” to swim, a dead-end street to ride bikes and loads of kids to play with all day long. When the Klem kids asked to go to camp, the response was, “we have a camp right here!”
Jeanne was regarded as one of the kindest people you would ever meet. She was always gentle and a joy through her last days. She had a most generous heart and made raising five children look easy. She took great pride in her family holiday dinners, cookouts on the balcony and casual suppers with her manicotti and chocolate bar pies! Jeanne will be lovingly missed by her daughters, Kathy (Al) Large, Anne (Robert) Rettig, and Janet Costa; as well as her son, William Bruce (Rose) Klem. In addition, Gramma will be missed by her grandchildren, Tom (Meredith) Large, Michael (Emily) Large, Matthew Klem USN, Alea Klem, Mikala Klem, Clare Rettig, and Kyle and Joshua Costa. “Great Gramma” will be remembered too by her great grandchildren, Emerson, Anna, Luke, Aubrey, Zoe, James, Kamo and Chalwe, Jr. Her niece, Christie Yuncker Happ of Fairbanks, AK, her former daughter-in-law, Lynne Listenberger, and her dear friend, Peg Claeys, also survive. Her husband, Bill, died May 14, 2019; and a son, Tom, preceded her also. Whether she was mom, Jeanne, Gramma Jeannie, or Great Gramma, we knew we were loved, and we are all better people for having known her.
Over the years, shew as a member of the St. Mary’s College Alumni Association, Service Guild, St. Joseph Hospital Auxiliary and the Christ Child Society. She knitted many layettes for the newborns, which were given out through Christ Child. For years, she and her neighbor, Celie Hiss, delivered mail to patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital. As she would say, “everyone likes to get mail!”
In every sense of the terms, she was a “wordsmith and bibliophile.” She loved to read and recorded with diligence in notebooks, the thousands of books she had enjoyed. Biographies were her favorites. She would say, “why read fiction when real life is so interesting?” Also, she worked the daily Tribune crossword and JUMBLE puzzles. Her favorite crossword dictionary had a duct tape binding! She never missed “Jeopardy”, and you could rarely beat her at “Scrabble!” She played it up until the last five weeks of her life. It was her game!
Jeanne and Bill loved to travel and enjoyed trips to the British Isles, Europe, China, India, and Alaska. They travelled the world and she concluded that the greatest countries were those that championed equal rights and liberty for all. They were members of the Assemblers Dance Club and loved to dance to the big band music of the 1940’s. (She was also a good tap-dancer!) She did master her “Alexa” and delighted in ordering it to play Perry Como. Many miles were spent on road trips to follow Notre Dame football with their close friends, the Deyerlings, Hisses, Teahs and Magners.
A celebration of Jeanne’s life will be held at a later date, and she will be laid to rest at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park, Granger.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Jeanne’s memory may be made to the St. Joseph County Library, c/o Collection Development, 304 S. Main Street, South Bend, IN 46601 (MEMO: purchase of large print books for the Francis Branch), the Christ Child Society, 2366 Miracle Lane, Mishawaka, IN 46545 or to Southern Care Hospice of South Bend, 1626 E. Day Road, Mishawaka, IN 46545.
The family would like to thank the team who cared for her in the skilled nursing wing at Wellbrooke for their attentive care to our mom, the team from Southern Care Hospice and also to the Palmer Funeral Home – Hickey Chapel, who assisted with arrangements.
Online condolences may be left for the Klem family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.
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