Surrounded by family in the early morning hours of June 14, 2019, Jennie Alice (Juarez) Whitehead, 85, passed away peacefully at her home in Tucson, Arizona.
Jennie was a first-generation American born in Whiting, Iowa on June 24, 1933, to Librado and Maria (Florez) Juarez. She was one of 10 children. Ordered among the last of these brothers and sisters, Jennie learned very early on to serve her siblings’ needs. Equipped with the skills to take care of others, she reared a large family of her own. Jennie defied the odds by doing this almost single-handedly, continuously relying on the ever-renewing daily mercies of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was a woman of simple means who exhibited during her lifetime enduring strength as well as unflagging determination to meet considerable challenge.
In the early 1950s, Jennie married the love of her life, Theodore (Ted) Roosevelt Whitehead, in Sioux City, Iowa. She had six children. The proud mother ever admired the photos of her children and grandchildren that hung on her living room wall. On any given day, you could find Jennie praying for one of these children or one of her 12 grandchildren. Youthful in spirit, she had a special affection for the younger generations. Jennie was a great cook, fondly remembered for her red chile and homemade pies, and she kept an immaculate house. In her younger years, she was passionate about jitterbugging to Big Band music. In later years, Jennie loved to get out from the house and go, especially to shop. It was important to her to be put together every day. When the day’s tasks happened to include visiting one of her doctors and Jennie was asked how she was doing, she unfailingly replied, “Good,” whether accurate or not!
In the 1970s while living in Omaha, Nebraska, Jennie worked outside of the home as a nurse’s aide at St. Catherine’s Hospital. When she moved to Tucson, where she and three of her daughters settled in the summer of 1975, she worked as a housekeeper for Burr Brown, IBM, and, finally, the Arizona university system.
Characteristically shy, the family matriarch was never one to command the center of attention, but she did have a few stories she was wont to share. Jennie often recounted escaping from the June 1953 flood of the Floyd River in Sioux City by hurrying down the center of a residential street as water rose above her high heels while she held an infant son in one arm and, with her other arm, tugged at the hand of her nearly three-year-old son. Turning around to see a giant wave coming toward them, Jennie whisked everyone to an elevated porch along the route until they were rescued by local authorities.
She also loved to regale others with the time when friends were not interested in joining her so she went alone, with 5,000 or so other fans, to see the May 1956 Sioux City concert of the rock-and-roll sensation known as Elvis.
When Jennie was a server at the Shore Acres Ballroom along the Big Sioux River during the late 1950s, the Glenn Miller Orchestra came to perform, resulting in an experience she never would forget. Before the performance, Jennie and another female server somehow ended up within earshot of the drummer (also the band leader) for the Orchestra. The other server asked the drummer what he was doing after the show. Motioning to Jennie, he suggested that he was going to take that lady out to supper after the show. Not missing a beat, Jennie curtly replied, “Oh no, you’re not. I need to go home to my children after the show!”
Jennie is survived by five children: Mark (Margo) Whitehead of Sioux City, Iowa; Connie Gerken and Gina Casanova of Tucson, Arizona; Sonya (Paul Veverka) Whitehead, also of Tucson, Arizona; and Denise (Rob) Oldach of Colorado Springs, Colorado. In addition, she is fondly remembered by her grandchildren: Troy, Rachel, Aaron, Adam, Megan, Lee, Chareese, Paul, Ian, Kai, Sarah and Michael as well as eight great-grandchildren. Two siblings—Robert (Mary) Juarez of Tucson and Joseph (Barb) Juarez of Hinton, Iowa—also still survive.
She was preceded in death by her parents; son Michael David Whitehead; former husband; four of her brothers, including John, Romiro, Rudy, and Frank Juarez; and all of her sisters: Paz Florez, Pemee Simon, and Mona Paztor.
Jennie’s desire was to be cremated. Her ashes will be spread at a later date.