June 5, 1920 - March 5, 2017
Jean Elizabeth Nicholson Maack, 96, passed away peacefully March 5, 2017, with two of her sons and her primary caregiver nearby. Jean was born June 5, 1920, in the small town of Ossian, Iowa. After reading all the books in her school and many in a local lawyer’s library, she graduated from high school and went to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana at age 16, staying with an uncle. She started out as a Chemistry major, graduated with a B.S. in Home Economics, and then earned an M.Sc. in Nutrition from the same university. In 1939, at age 19, she married Arthur C. Maack, a graduate student at the University. Their marriage lasted 50 years, until Arthur’s death December 19, 1989, and produced four sons.
As her youngest son approached school age she went back to college to earn a teaching credential. She then taught seventh and eighth grade science and mathematics at Herrick Junior High School in Downers Grove, Illinois for 25 years. Jean was a leader and a skilled, tough activist throughout her adult life. From 1965 to 1967 she was President of the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association. At one point during contract negotiations she almost took the teachers out on an illegal strike. Later she was a board member of the Illinois Education Association, was active in the local and state National Organization for Women, and supported the American Association of University Women.
From 1977 to 1980 she served two terms as head of the ERA-Illinois coalition that sought to get the state legislature to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. While the ERA-Illinois coalition came close to achieving its goal several times, ERA never did pass in Illinois and eventually failed nationally. During this time she was a moderate to progressive Republican.
When she moved to Medford, Oregon in 1982, she became a Democrat and set about helping to organize Medford, Rogue Valley and Southern Oregon Democrats. Her Rolodex of contact information for local Democrats, politicians, press, and supporters was legendary. She ran the local Democratic Party office during multiple elections; until a permanent party office was established her garage was full of posters and campaign material between elections. The current Jean Maack Memorial Fund supports the Democratic Office in Medford. She was instrumental in Senator Ron Wyden’s initial Senate victory and a photo of Senator Wyden hugging her during a visit to Medford after the election was replicated in newspaper articles across the country. Jean Maack was a member of the state Democratic Council as well as President of the bipartisan Oregon Women’s Political Caucus. She was recognized nationally by President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Jean acted for equity, fairness, and social justice throughout her life. When she was in her 80s she volunteered to escort women from their cars to a local clinic that offered reproductive health services through a phalanx of anti-abortion activists. In January 2016 the Center for Nonprofit Legal Services established the Spirit of Justice Fund honoring Jean Maack.
Jean was for many years an ardent and skilled genealogist, tracing her own family’s Nicholson/Harvey ancestry back to the middle ages and publishing articles in genealogical journals. She served on the Board of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society. There is a Jean Maack Collection in the Society’s Library. Jean is survived by her sister, Norma Nicholson Menke; her four sons and their wives (her “instant daughters”), David (Karen Gilles) of Seattle, Stephen (Mary Niles) of Los Angeles, Christopher (Kathryn Anderson) of El Cerrito, Calif., and Rodney (Laura Shier) of Portland; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
The family would like to give special thanks to the loving care provided by Jean’s caregivers, especially Laurie Alexander and her family.
A memorial service and reception will be held from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23, 2017 at First Presbyterian Church, 85 S. Holly Street, Medford, Ore.
Memorial contributions may be made to Jackson County Democratic Party, Jean Maack fund 110 E 6th St, Medford, Ore. 97501 jacksondems.ngpvanhost.com/contribute or Rogue Valley Genealogical Society 3405 S Pacific Hwy, Medford, Ore. 97501 www.rvgsociety.org/Donate.html.