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Obituary: Jean Christie

Jean Christie
Jean Christie, 98, of Madison, WI, and formerly of Great Neck, died on May 16, 2010, of a gentle sort of Alzheimer’s, sleeping peacefully more and more of the time until she did not wake up at all. She shared a home with her son, Richard Claus, and their cat, Hodge. Throughout her last months, hospice and home care staff provided her loving and wise service. Special thanks are due to Jane Randall, her friend and helper for the last eight years.

Jean was born in Manila on February 8, 1912, to Emerson Brewer and Clara (Pray) Christie, but she grew up in Washington, D.C., where her father headed the Translation Bureau for the State Department. After a BA from George Washington University, she did graduate work at Tufts, where she met Robert Claus. After further work at Radcliffe, she married Bob in 1938.

Bob’s work took him to the United Nations in 1946 as its first archivist, and the next year the family moved to Great Neck, where they lived until moving to Wisconsin in 2001. In the 1950s, after seeing their two children into elementary school, Jean earned a Ph.D. in history from Columbia. She taught history at several colleges before settling at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Teaneck), from which she retired as a professor emerita in 1977.

Alongside her professional and family responsibilities, Jean found the time and energy to work hard and give generously to many organizations for peace, women’s rights, racial equality, and the environment, as well as for reform of the local Democratic Party and for various progressive candidates. In her spare time, she hiked much of the Long Trail in Vermont and traveled to Europe several times, hiking and sightseeing well into her 80s. She played piano and figure skated, too, until arthritis made it too difficult.

Jean could speak cuttingly of certain politicians at times, but she was courteous and considerate to all she met, and always concerned for the unhappy and oppressed. She is much missed.

Jean is survived by her son, Richard Claus, a grandson (Robert Richardson Claus, of Louisville, CO) and his wife (Carolyn Norma Harvey), and two great-grandchildren (Samantha Joy Harvey and Emily Madison Claus), as well as by her good friends Gundega Korsts, Nancy Pullen, and Jane Randall. She was preceded in death by her younger son, Peter (1989), her granddaughter, Althaia Virú Claus (1996), her husband, Robert (2004), and her brother, Donald (2008).

A memorial meeting will be held on Sunday, Aug. 8 at 3:30 p.m. at the Friends (Quakers) Meeting House, 1704 Roberts Court, Madison. All are invited to come and share memories of Jean.