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Jean W. Hand

November 16, 1924 - June 14, 2021


Jean W Hand     Jean Williams Hand, beloved wife, mother, former university catalog librarian and church archivist, died peacefully in the embrace of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on June 14, 2021 at age 96.

     Jean was raised by strong and loving parents Emma Lee Mable and Benjamin Dudley Williams, Jr. of Anniston and later Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama. Her southern upbringing leavened with 56 years spent in Salem equipped her with compassion, humility, a zest for life, learning and travel, tireless organizational skills, and a heart for others.   She married James Albert Hand (Jim), also of Mobile, 70 years ago. They enjoyed the last 50 of their wonderful years together in Salem, for 33 years atop the West Salem hills and 17 years as part of the Capital Manor retirement community.

     After high school graduation in 1942, Jean was employed during wartime with the Mobile County Ration Board before beginning her baccalaureate studies at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.  After graduation in 1947 with a degree in biology, she worked another year before setting off for an unprecedented adventure with three of her childhood girlfriends -- a 40+ day road trip to the West Coast and back, despite her father’s admonition that she must have “lost her mind” for giving up a good job just for travel.

          Jean and Jim first met in the 7th grade but it wasn’t until after college that they became sweethearts and married in December of 1950.  As newlyweds they lived several years in New York City where Jim received the Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Their early life together was blessed with two children, son David Brevard and daughter Sarah Elizabeth, as Jim had Methodist pastorates in Livingston and Citronelle Alabama through the remainder of the 1950s.

     In 1960, Nashville Tennessee was their next home as they both undertook graduate study.  Jean received a Master of Arts degree in Library Science from George Peabody College while Jim earned a PhD from Vanderbilt University.  When Jim was offered a teaching position at Willamette University in Salem, their southern roots were happily transplanted in northwestern soil for the remainder of their lives.

     Jean’s career included stints with both the West Salem Public Library and the Salem Public Library, and finally 15 years as catalog librarian at Willamette University.  In retirement, she especially enjoyed teaming up with dear friends as archivists for First United Methodist Church in Salem.  She devoted almost 30 years to the research and preservation of records for the historic “First Church.”  She was a tireless organizer and archivist of family history as well.

     Jean and Jim shared a joy for life-long learning and travel.  They spent a semester in Japan with Willamette students and joined two University-sponsored art history/literature study trips to Italy.  In 1984, Jean accompanied Jim on a six-month sabbatical leave from Willamette to study at Wesley House College in Cambridge, England; while there, in addition to exploring every inch of East Anglia together, they planned their daughter’s “destination wedding” at the Wesley House Chapel where Jim co-officiated the ceremony.  In retirement, they enjoyed numerous Elderhostel trips and enjoyed extensive travel in Britain, as well as Ireland, France, and Germany, often in company with David and Sarah. 

     Jean and Jim’s love for travel played out in the maintenance of strong family ties.  In their early days, many of their summers were devoted to cross-country driving/camping trips to visit relatives in Alabama, always taking different routes to experience and share with their children all the National Parks, sights and delights of the bountiful and beautiful United States.  Later, as grandchildren came, they made extraordinary efforts to unite everyone, including 30 years of family reunions each summer at Sunriver resort in Central Oregon.

     Jean is survived by son David (Mary Dan) of Columbia Maryland and grandchildren Wesley (Meg), Jared, and Kara Hand, and daughter Sarah Murphy (Sean) of Atlanta Georgia and grandchildren Trevor Murphy and Erin Murphy Crabtree (Bruce).  In her last days, Jean was thrilled to become a great grandmother with the birth of Emma Caroline Crabtree.  Her beloved husband Jim predeceased her.  She was the last of her generation of both the Hand and Williams families.

      A celebration of life service will take place at a later date to be determined, and a private interment will be at Pine Crest Cemetery in Mobile.  Gifts in Jean’s memory may be directed to any of the following: The Capital Manor Foundation, Salem; First United Methodist Church, Salem; St Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Salem.  

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David, Sarah and the Hand family, I was deeply sadden to learn about the passing of Mrs. Hand. Through the years, we have been friends and many years ago, your parent were my employers. Mr. and Mrs. Hand were kind to me and my family. I extend my condolences, sympathy and prayers during your loss. May the Lord provide comfort and assurance of peaceful rest for your mother. 

Mrs. Thereasa Logan
Livingston, Alabama