Jeanette and Gerald both grew up in tight-knit families, and felt a drive to create their own family. It took them seven years to be able to adopt their first child, Steven, and then they were able to get three daughters within 10 years. They named their beloved girls Lori Jean, Karalyn (Karrie) and SueAnn (Annie).
“We just weren’t complete,” she said, until they had their children.
They love all their children deeply, and would have adopted more, but they were told they were fortunate to have been able to adopt four, Jeanette said. They worked with the LDS church and the state children’s services.
Though she only was able to legally adopt the four, her heart and home have always been open to others in need. She has taken in nephews, foster children, Native American youth, foreign exchange students, friends, neighbors and others, her daughter Annie Yahne said.
“Children were bathed, fed, clothed, taught and loved until they could go home,” Annie said.
Many of them still “call, write and even return to visit their ‘mom’ in Cedar City,” she added.
Jeanette also served as caregiver for both her parents, driving to Milford regularly until her mother died in 1997 and welcoming her father into her home for several years after her mom passed away, until he died as well.
Gerald described his wife as a devout Mormon who believes the Lord wants his children to care for one another and she has always been open to those who need her.
Jeanette grew up on a dairy farm in Milford, and despite the hardships, “it was a good life,” she said. Gerald lived in California during World War II, but moved to Milford in high school, where they met. Early in their marriage, he was in the Army and they lived in California, Virginia and France.
Gerald went to France before her and once he got established she had to move their by herself. She took a train from Milford to Washington, D.C., then flew to Greenland, then Ireland, and finally France. It was her first time on a plane.
“But it was worth it when I saw him waiting on the other side of the gate,” she said.
Their time in France was enjoyable, and they were able to travel a lot and experience many cultures, she added.
When Gerald got out of the Army, they decided more schooling was in order, and they adopted their first three children before he finished his engineering degree at Utah State University.
When they moved to Cedar City they built their home on 300 East, just down from 600 South. It was the first home on the block, and they have lived their 44 years.
She has had great experiences with her family and loves to spend time with them at their cabin on the mountain. Before building the cabin, when her children were growing up, they first camped in a tent, then a trailer, and always took a guitar and harmonica along, she said.
In addition to raising her children, and other children who needed her, Jeanette worked in the financial aid office at Southern Utah State College (now SUU) for 14 years and spent several years working at KSUB. She taught piano lessons for about 10 years, mentoring dozens of Cedar City children.
“She was patient and fun-loving, and encouraged everyone to never give up,” Annie said.
Jeanette also encouraged her children to pursue musical interests and they all played instruments. Karrie and Annie particularly were talented singers, their mother said.
In 1996 Jeanette faced one of the greatest challenges of her life, when she lost her daughter Lori to cancer. She has had multiple experiences with cancer, beating both thyroid cancer and melanoma herself, but Lori was not so lucky.
“(Jeanette) felt the pain and burden that her daughter suffered right along beside her,” Annie said.
“She was Lori’s nursemaid and companion, with angels assisting her, until that April morning 15 years ago when she had to say goodbye – for now,” Annie added.
Jeanette said losing Lori was even more difficult because her daughter left her own small children behind.
“She was a very special gal,” she said of her daughter, and added that they had some very spiritual experiences the last month of Lori’s life. Their faith that they will be able to see Lori again has been crucial in helping them deal with the loss.
“That’s what keeps us going some days,” she said.
Despite cancers and strokes, and many other hardships in her life, Jeanette still looks back and is grateful for the life she has been able to have.