Brokaw, Eugenia ‘Jean’ Conley, died peacefully and in the company of family members and care-givers at her home in Laguna Hills, California, Wednesday evening, November 9, just four days short of what would have been her 94th birthday.
She is survived by three sons: Tom and his wife Meredith of New York City, Bill of Denver and Mike and his wife Beth of Dana Point, California. She was ‘Grandma Jean’, a powerful and wise influence on five grandchildren and a niece, Gretchen Moore of Warsaw, Indiana.
During the Christmas, 2010, holidays her family celebrated Grandma Jean’s life in Newport Beach, California, with a festive gathering that included her grandchildren – Pat and Kristen of Orange County, Dr. Jennifer Brokaw of San Francisco, Andrea Brokaw of New York City, Sarah Brokaw of Santa Monica; her nephew, Dick Brokaw; and seven great-grandchildren.
Jean had been living in Orange County since the death of her husband, Anthony ‘Red’ Brokaw in March 1982. They had been married since 1938 and lived in several communities in their home state of South Dakota and the midwest during Red’s career as a skilled operator of heavy construction equipment.
During her California years, Jean continued her association with P.E.O. and became an enthusiastic fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the California Angels. She was a regular at weekly bridge games in the retirement community of Laguna Woods and traveled widely, taking trips to Europe, through the Panama Canal, Hawaii and along the Alaska Coast Line.
Jean began life on her father’s small farm in northern South Dakota where she lived the 20th Century version of little house on the prairie. She often recalled the joys and virtues of being self reliant from an early age when she helped with the harvest and daily chores. Following her elementary and junior high education in a one room rural school house her family lost the farm during the great depression and moved to Andover, S.D. where Jean graduated from high school at the age of sixteen. She hoped to become a journalist but the cost of college was prohibitive so instead she became a lively family commentator and informal historian on the seismic changes she had witnessed, from the Great Depression to World War II, from the Cold War to Vietnam, from kerosene lamps to the internet, from the Model T to space travel. Through it all she was a mother lode of civility, wise counsel and good humor for her immediate family and the many surrogate family members who over the years were attracted to her warm and generous personality.