Jean Graebner

Rua Jean Graebner, of Rocheport passed away Monday, June 30, 2014 after a three year battle with cancer.

Jean was born on April 28, 1926, in Granite City, IL, to Ralph and Ruby (Sloan) Wilson. After graduating Granite City High school Jean was drawn to the University of Missouri School of Journalism. On January 28, 1949 Jean married fellow journalist and photographer Larry Graebner. After receiving her journalism degree from the university, Jean and Larry landed jobs at the Columbia Daily Tribune where Jean worked until 1953 when the first of their two daughters arrived. Larry remained at the Tribune until his retirement in 1980.

After her daughters began school, Jean changed her course and returned to the university. Upon receiving her Master’s Degree in English, Jean began her 26 year teaching career at West Junior High where she taught, English, and Social Studies. She also sponsored the school newspaper, the “Sword and Shield”.

After their daughters were grown, Larry and Jean moved to a 30 acre farm in rural Rocheport where Jean planned, planted and cared for Scotch pines at their choose-and- cut Christmas tree farm.  After Larry’s death in 1999, Jean chose to forgo the Christmas tree operation and let the farm become her personal wildlife refuge.

After Larry’s death Jean began corresponding with a friend from her college days. They spent the next 12 years traveling to Alaska, Mexico, Iceland, Hawaii, Trinidad, Costa Rica and every corner of the United States including cherished days at his cabin in Wyoming where they shared their love for the world of natural history.

Jean was active in many organizations including: the Prairie Foundation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Federation, the Missouri State Park Association, the Friends of Rock Bridge, the Hawthorn Native Plant Society, and the Columbia Audubon Society.  Jean served as secretary for both the Native Plant Society and the Audubon Society.  In 2009 Jean received the Blazing Star Award from the Hawthorn Chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society and in 2010 received the John E. Wylie Service Award for 20 years of service in promoting and advocating the values of our natural heritage and the native flora of Missouri.

Jean is survived by her daughters Cathy (Philip) Jose of Hartsburg, MO and Anita (Marty) Kelch of Highland, IL.  Grandchildren: Jennifer (Michael) Chrane of Lathrop, MO; Jeanna Jose of Ashland, MO; John Jose of Rocheport, MO; Scott Jose of Hartsburg, MO; Nicholas (Tiffany) McSpadden of Granite City, IL; Laura McSpadden of Troy, IL:  Great-grandchildren:  Onni of Ashland, MO; Grace and Levi of Lathrop, MO; Brendan and Mason of Troy, IL.

Jean’s family would like to thank Dr. Bala and Nurse Julie, Hospice Advantage especially Susan and Kelly, and the compassionate and caring staff at Ashland Villa for their kindness and loving care.

A private family service will be held at a later date

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Central Missouri Humane Society.

Online condolences may be left for the family

Visits: 2


  1. Mariel Stephenson on July 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    My deepest sympathy to the family of a marvelous community activist. I feel I can call her that having first met her as we worked to get scenic road designations, and finally a Scenic Road Ordinance for the city of Columbia. We worked together on the Greenbelt Coalition and Audubon and I remember her as always positive about life, loving nature in all its forms. We will all miss her tireless work on the organizations she worked so hard to encourage and support.

  2. Mary Garver on July 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    My condolences to all of you on Jean’s passing. We were colleagues at West Jr. until she retired. I loved her droll sense of humor as evidenced the night of her retirement dinner when she announced that her grandchildren told her they were getting a sitter “because their grandma was getting retarded.” I still can visualize photos of her on her 4-wheeler with her little dog. She will be missed. Fondly, Mary

  3. Carla McFarland on July 2, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I’m sorry to learn of Jean’s passing. I taught with her at West Junior as well as doing some chair weaving for her after she retired. I always enjoyed her gentle demeanor and sense of humor.

  4. Tim Echternach on July 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    She was a great teacher at West Jr. Also knew her through Larry who worked with my step-father, Phil Gottschalk at the Tribune. What a wonderful person she was.

  5. Charlene Smith on July 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Thinking of you in this time of sorrow. Your mother is not in any more pain an Angel has took her by the hand and lead her home to meet with your dad. With caring thoughts.

  6. Marsha Sisson on July 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Dear Graebner family,

    I was a colleague of Jean’s at West Junior High during the late 70’s and until her retirement. Jean was so generous and kind. I never saw her without a big smile on her face. When she started the tree farm, we would bundle up and hunt the very best tree on the lot. She was so kind to my children and the hot chocolate warmed our bodies while her company warmed our hearts. I have missed seeing her at our WJHS lunches, and now I know why.

    Please accept our condolences and know that your mom, grandma will be fondly remembered.

    Marsha and Tom Sisson

  7. Mary Amrein on July 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

    My deepest sympthy to you and your family. I knew it had to happen but loved your mother dearly. I love you too Cathy and I will miss your mother and will miss seeing you too.


  8. Tracy Turner on July 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Mrs. Graebner was one of those teachers who changed students’ lives and opened minds wider. My condolences to the family.

  9. Joyce Coats on July 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Dear Graebner family,
    We have very fond memories of Jean as neighbors. When my daughter was in elementary school, she would sometimes get off the bus at Jean’s house just to hang out. She loved the support she got from Jean when she just didn’t want to go home by herself! We also always got our Christmas trees right down the road at Jean and Larry’s. It was always a wonderful experience. Jean was a wonderfully kind person, one who will be missed.
    Rick and Joyce Coats

  10. Marjorie Meredith on July 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I send my deepest sympathy to Jean’s family. She was a good friend. I knew her through Audubon Society and a couple of other nature organizations. And I ice skated with her at the area in Jefferson City. She was generous, always nice and had that wonderful hearty laugh. I and many others will miss her, but her achievements will live on.

  11. Vanessa Melton on July 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I was extremely disheartened to hear of Jean’s passing and I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to her family. Jean was always such a joy to be around and she will be greatly missed by many.

  12. Don Garvin, Jr. on July 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    My heartfelt condolences to Cathy and all the Graebner family. I have really missed Jean’s great smile and friendship these last two years. She truly was a real public citizen and a wonderful, loving person. She will be missed by the Garvin family and the cabin in Wyoming.

  13. Faye Nowell on July 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Jean Graebner was one of the nicest, most easy going ladies I’ve ever met. She was my English teacher at West Jr. High School in the mid-70’s, and I loved being in her class. Years later, we connected again, through a mutual friend, Marge McDermott. Marge and Jean were good friends, and I often saw Jean when I was visiting Marge. Eventually, I started watching Jean’s dog “Dink” when she traveled, and then later took care of “Carl”, the labrador. I’m so thankful to have known Jean in her later years. She was a bright ray of sunshine in my life. My deepest sympathies to her loved ones.

  14. Meredith J. Donaldson on July 22, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I was so sorry to hear that one great person is no longer. But, rest assured that she will not be forgotten!! I met Jean through Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park/ She was a great help when I was the Director trying to shepard the nature center project. I soon became aware that FoRB was only one of her many contributions. In our talks I learned about plants, birds, people, places and envied her travels!! She has really left a legacy and I will miss her.

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