Jeanne Weinhold Klems: Skilled carer, loving mother and wife, avid musician

Jeanne Weinhold Klems: Sept.2, 1933 – May 7, 2019

Jeanne Klems died peacefully in Berkeley, CA, on May 7, 2019, under the care of hospice, after a decade of living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Born in Snyder, NB, Jeanne was a competent professional, a loving mother and wife and an avid amateur musician.

Jeanne grew up in small towns: Snyder and Wittemore, IA, where she graduated from high school. Although she loved cities, she never lost her small-town approach to people: personal, caring, involved.

After attending Bethany Junior College, she worked as a secretary, first in Denver and then for three years for Army Intelligence in Heidelberg, Germany. On her return from Europe she settled in San Francisco, where secretarial employment financed her completing her bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University.

Her father was a Lutheran pastor and her mother a nurse. Her choice of profession reflected her background. She earned an MSW at the University of Chicago School of Social Work, and became a psychiatric social worker at Michael Reese Hospital, where she was director of intake to the outpatient psychiatric program.

In 1967 Jeanne married Joseph Klems, a physics graduate student, and adapted her life to the itinerant nature of his early career: finishing his PhD and several postdoctoral positions. She worked at Family Service of Berkeley (CA), Tomkins County (NY) Mental Health, Family Service of Ithaca (NY) and Family Service of Davis (CA).

With the arrival of their children, in Davis, Jeanne interrupted her career to care for her family. She was always grateful to Joe for the option of being a full-time mother. They raised the children primarily in Berkeley. She was active in their schooling, endlessly arranging play dates, driving them to activities and helping them to cope with a complex and difficult social environment so different from that in which she grew up. This was the 1970s and ’80s, when a whole generation of young people was facing unanticipated challenges, and a loving home environment was not always enough.

When Julia and Steven approached college she resumed her professional life, changing her focus to the elderly, for whom she had always had a special sensitivity. She set up a successful business as a private Geriatric Care Manager. She counted the satisfaction of her clients and their relatives at least as heavily as the remuneration. One referral source, a lawyer, said, “you are my miracle worker.”

Jeanne was an enthusiastic and accomplished amateur musician throughout her life. Her earliest memories were of classical music radio broadcasts, a view out of the cultural confines of her small town. She played Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique for her high school graduation, and made the common mistake that requires one to repeat the whole development section in order to end the piece. As an adult she took up singing. A soprano, she sang with the Bach Verein in Heidelberg and the Symphony Chorus in Chicago. She saw her time in Europe as an extended round of music festivals.

Joe was astounded at the breadth of Jeanne’s musical knowledge. She could not only identify almost everything classical played on WFMT, but in vocal pieces she could often also recognize the voice of the soloist. Her special loves were Bach and Lieder. In Berkeley she performed with various choral groups and was an avid arranger of house music. Her musical connections formed one thread in the multifaceted tapestry of her social network. She was one of the three founders of the Berkeley Cantata Group, and was a regular solo or duet performer at the UC Berkeley Section Club (Music).

Jeanne was familiar with Alzheimer’s Disease from her geriatric care management practice, and she was philosophical and accepting when she developed it herself. This made things easier on Joe, her caregiver for several years. When a fall in 2016 left her wheelchair-bound, and the trauma destroyed most of her remaining cognitive facilities, she took up residence at Chaparral House, a skilled nursing facility in Berkeley. Her family is grateful for the excellent and sensitive care she received there. Although she lost most language, she never lost her social responses, her love of music and her warm approach to people. Her warmth and her beautiful blue eyes made her popular with the Chaparral House staff.

Jeanne is survived and greatly missed by her daughter, Julia, her son Steven, and her ex-husband Joseph (“Joe”), from whom she was divorced in 2017 after a 49-year marriage. Jeanne was predeceased by her parents, Dorothy (Sanders) and Paul Weinhold, and by all four of her older siblings.

There will be a memorial for Jeanne on June 1 at 3 p.m. at Chaparral House, 1309 Allston Way, Berkeley. Persons wishing to make a memorial gift in her name are asked to make a donation to Chaparral House.