Jean Betty Wetzel: June 12, 1927 – June 15, 2022
Jean Betty Wetzel, 95, of Brighton, NY, passed away peacefully in her home on June 15, 2022. Jean is preceded in death by her husband Joseph Paul Wetzel, 9/4/1925 – 8/10/1981. She is survived by her five children: Roy Wetzel and his wife Paula (Fremont, CA); Steven Wetzel (Mesquite, NV); Christopher Wetzel and his wife Ying (Brighton, NY); Marianne Wetzel and her husband Bruce Crandall (Santa Barbara, CA); and Michael Wetzel and his wife Tirza (Columbia, NJ). Jean is also survived by her seven grandchildren Kristi (Dwyer), Brian, Allan, Kevin, Siobhan, Claudia and Julia, and 5 great grandchildren Marley, Isabella, Jada, Brianna, and Remy. She will be missed by her niece Barbara (Shafer) Michaluk and daughter-in-law Sue (Vitale-Wetzel) Buteau, in addition to several other nieces, nephews, and an abundance of very, very special friends.
Jean was born in Newark, New Jersey, and lived in Newark and the surrounding area up through 1957 when she and her husband moved to Lake Hiawatha, NJ; finally settling in Rochester, New York (Penfield and Brighton) where she lived out the rest of her life.
Jean had a colorful childhood, but her most vivid memories were those of the teachers that touched and changed her life. When Jean was in 9th grade, her teacher took her class to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. This is when her love of classical music and opera “reached deep inside.” Her first opera was ‘Peter and the Wolf’ accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony which remained her favorite symphonic piece.
Jean graduated high school when she was 15 years old and immediately began working for the Essex County Vocational Schools Jr. Employment Service. This began her lifelong volunteer and career work all related to education and teaching (she was even a bus driver for physically challenged children). Jean was born to be a teacher, most importantly a teacher on how to live an honest, healthy, fulfilled life. Jean’s gift to guide others to be the best they could be and to reach their full potential was not only accomplished in the classroom but with her children and grandchildren as well.
After being pen pals while serving in the U.S. Marines in WWII, Joe (who was from Miami, FL) and Jean were married on July 19, 1947 after Joe was discharged. They lived in and around Newark, NJ until 1958 when they moved to the ‘burbs’ in Lake Hiawatha, NJ, with their then 3 young boys. They would have two more children while living in Lake Hiawatha, a daughter and another son. In August 1976, Jean moved with her youngest son to Penfield, NY to be with Joe who had moved to Rochester1-1/2 years earlier after being transferred with Addressograph Multigraph (Mountainside, NJ) to Rochester (Culver Street). After Joe’s death in August 1981, Jean decided to remain in Penfield because she “really liked living in Rochester.”
From a young age, Jean questioned religion, not having grown up with a connection to any one religion. As a young mother, she tried and tested many religions and beliefs, but never settled on any one in particular. After 5 years of living in Penfield and still feeling lost without her huge network of friends in New Jersey, Jean was looking for a way to meet people and get involved in the community. She stumbled upon a sign at the Fairport Library’s bulletin board welcoming people to join a Unity Church sponsored ‘Transformation’ meeting. That meeting started Jean’s journey on meditation and spiritual studies. Upon coming across the book “Think on These Things’ by Krishnamurti, her eyes were opened to thinking differently about religion and her connection to God. She would go on to read about Hinduism and reincarnation. She believed “you get what you need to grow and perfect yourself.” One of the philosophies Jean embraced was that of the Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner. According to Steiner’s philosophy of Anthroposophy, the human being is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body. With all that she absorbed, she believed “as your outer self weakens, your inner strength strengthens.” She would outlive most of her philosophical and bible study friends from the area, but still has her dear friend Mary.
Jean was “granola” before granola was a term – living a health-focused, environmentally conscious lifestyle. She ate healthy and natural foods and practiced meditation and yoga since her early 40s. She tried to instill healthy eating habits on her husband and her young children, not being all that successful, but she never gave up and was doing head stands up through the age of 70!!
In 1986, at the age of 56, after having been working as a literary volunteer (and a couple years as a B&B host in the Penfield house), Jean realized that she needed a paying job. With her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Speech Therapy obtained at the age of 47(attending William Paterson College part time at night & on Saturdays), she went to work first as a teacher’s aide and then as a full-fledged teacher in the Adult Education Program for the Rochester City School District, teaching Adult/Family Literacy and GED. Jean retired in 1997 just before her 75th birthday. She made a huge impact, not to mention impression, on those in her classes. To this day, she remains close to several of her students (Jundie and Camelia just to name two of them). She would meet some of her dearest friends while working here. She loves you so much Marilyn, Sue, Kathy (and “boyfriend” Ken) and Steve.
After years of scouting out the most charming Colonial home areas in the Rochester area, Jean moved to Colonial Village Road in 1994, where she was able to live out the rest of her very long life in her home thanks to her son, Christopher, who remained by her side until she passed. She loved her friends on Colonial Village Road: Marsha, Heather and Brian, Erin, Eric, Dean (thanks for keeping the lawn mowed), Conner and Adam. She remained very close to her neighbors from Dublin Road: Sandy, Rick and Sue, and Betty.
Jean was also the best friend and neighbor anyone could wish for. She kept her friendships, dating back to kindergarten, alive with weekend phone calls. She befriended the neighborhood children who would come to love ‘Ms. Jean’ often hanging out at her house playing music for her, working with her in the garden, playing games together, some recognizing that Jean helped shape them into the nice adults they turned out to be.
But, the most important roll in Jean’s life was that of being a “mama.” From a young age, she would constantly tell her sister, Ruth, “when I grow up, I want to be a “mama.” And what a mama she was! She could not have expressed her love and support of her children, grandchildren, “adopted children” (her students), and younger-aged friends any more than she did. She thrived and excelled at being a mother with gentle guidance; strong support; and never ending love. Oh, what love she had for all her “children.”
Some of Jean’s favorite things were tending to her flower gardens, birds (especially hummingbirds), music (mostly classical and opera and not to forget, Judy Garland), poetry, philosophical discussions, her neighborhood walks with Marsha, hikes (she loved being a part of the Women Out Walking (WOW) group, the outdoors, playing rummy and scrabble with Christopher, Polly and Ortella, among so many other interests.
Jean had a very beautiful, fulfilled, long life that she cherished very much, and all who were blessed to have known her are some of the most fortunate people in the world.
‘Carry on’ Jean (Mom). We’ll see you in your next life – whatever that may transpire to be. We will be looking out for signs. We all love you tons and tons.
A Celebration of Life is being held on Friday, June 24, 2022, 3 pm – 6 pm, at Rochester Cremation, Greece Event Center, 1118 Long Pond Road, Rochester, NY 14626. There is plenty of on-site parking.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be sent in Jean’s memory to either:
Salvation Army, Rochester Area Services, 70 Liberty Pole Way, Rochester, NY 14604
UR Medicine Home Care, Box 270032, Rochester, NY14627
Meals on Wheels Program (A11906)ch
Please feel free to share a memory or leave a condolence on this website: rochestercremation.com
Doors open at 3 pm. The “formal” part of the Celebration will start at 3:15 pm. As of now, the family is welcoming family and friends to share a memory, tell a story about Jean, read a poem and/or scripture, etc. This part of the program is being planned to begin at 3:15 and run for approximately 1 hour. Please contact Marianne Wetzel to let her know you want to speak or read. Her cell phone number where you can either call or text is: 805-448-1048.
The remaining time will be for casual gathering and left open for anyone that decides they’d like to pick up the microphone and talk, if the mood hits them.
Please check back on the website prior to June 24th, for updates on any program details. Thank you.
Jean “Greatma” Wetzel was one of the loveliest, and most incredible women I’ve had the honor of knowing. I can’t think about her without thinking of her eyes and smile that always radiated love and kindness. In late night Scrabble matches and visits that were too few and short, she talked about her experiences in conversations that gave you no choice but to look at the beauty in life. She taught me that a mother’s job is to love all her children unconditionally, and to have patience when the path they take is less traveled. The joy she had each Spring when her flowers would come back reminded me that each season held meaning. Any book, song, or recollection was something to take note of, as she passed her wisdom to others through them. In her- you could feel that the soul holds love that is eternal. I’m not sure if she ever truly understood how important she was to those who loved her, as her modesty (I can see her hands on her cheeks right now) didn’t fully let her accept a compliment. In the past few years when we communicated through letters, she would apologize that her handwriting wasn’t like it used to be. Little did she know, that just to be thought of was a gift beyond measure. So……. My beautiful, amazing, Jean….. goodbye for now.
I’ll come find you one day in an apple orchard, and we will sing songs with Judy Garland, together. I love you❤️
Aunt Jean was one of the most genuine, humbling person I knew. Anyone who knew here was blessed with her beautiful eyes and smile. RIP with Daddy and Aunt Ruth, et al. 💔🙏🙌😞
How fortunate to have been brought into this world by you, and how fortunate to have been loved by you all my years. Your life lessons are beyond measure. You have shown that a rewarding and rich life includes developing and maintaining friendship, harvesting the fruits of knowledge and art, and living by steadfast values including consideration, honesty and love. In addition to being a great Mom, you have been a great friend to so many.
Your legacy of strength of character and fortitude is rare in the world as I know it, and will remain with me forever. Although subtle due to modesty and gentleness, your strength has been both steady and mighty. Your strength has helped many throughout their lives both in specific circumstances and as a steady beacon of guidance. Your strength transcends illusions of strength; it is the real deal as evidenced by your consistent lifelong generosity, consideration, optimism and love, no matter the circumstance. How many times have you placed the needs or wants of others before your own? Those with character akin to you make the world a better place.
I already miss you, but am comforted to know that you are in a peaceful place with friends.
You have been and will continue to be an inspiration in so many ways.
Dear Aunt Jean
Your ear to ear smile will never be forgotten.
You can count on me to carry on your legacy of making cow beef soup (But don’t tell anyone I use chicken Even though the beef tastes better). And yes I wonder what you would call it but that was my name for it. It had even those who didn’t like vegetables eating every vegetable imaginable.
Can you dancing amongst the angels that you now accompany as you look down on and watch over all of us with Frankie, Joe and Ruth.
*sing with and dance amongst…..
I had he honor of meeting you only twice but those two times will always be moments of inspiration to me. Your kindness, your outer beauty, your inner beauty were all so profoundly obvious. You are a remarkable lady. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who had the good fortune to have had you in their life.
We met Jean when we moved next door to her and Joe in 1979. Jean became an “extra” Gramma to our daughter Lisa and son Steve.
She was a big part of our family and was always there for our children’s birthdays, graduations and weddings.
She remained a dear friend even after she moved to her home in Brighton.
She was a great neighbor and wonderful woman and will be missed dearly.
Sue and Rick Ruple
Marianne – I loved meeting your mom the times she came to visit you and Bruce in Sacramento. She reminded me so much of my mom, whom I miss to this very day. Visiting with your mom was almost like having a bit of my mom present – doesn’t get any better than that! Thanks for sharing Jean with me……..
Lots of love,
Susan & Mike
Dear, sweet Jean, thank you so much for being a wonderful friend while I was growing up. My life is richer for having known you. I recall fondly picking fresh chives from your garden, listening to classical music and opera in your friendly kitchen, and even buying a plate from you at your garage sale (it was my favorite). You obviously touched the lives of so many and were a joy to everyone that knew you. I don’t think there are many people as genuine and kind as you. Thank you for being a part of my life.