A well-known community advocate, businesswoman, and author Frances Jean has passed away at the age of 86.
Jean died peacefully in her Fort McMurray home Friday afternoon, the family said in a statement on Facebook.
“She was my mother, my business partner, and my friend. Everyone who knew her immediately sensed her love of life and her spirit which brightened every room,” said former MLA Brian Jean in a Facebook post. “She is with my father and my son Mikey, which gives me comfort but I will always truly miss her. It was an honour to be her son.”
Jean, who many called Mrs. Jean, first moved to Fort McMurray in 1967 when there were roughly 1500 residents. This is when she and her husband Bernard started their first business venture – Jeans Gifts and Stationary. The store sold everything from books to bedding plants, fine china, and office supplies.
Jean then went on to publish the community’s first newspaper – the McMurray Courier. This eventually led to her becoming one of three of the first women to join the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce in 1972.
As a writer, reporter, and editor, she was invited to attend a Chamber meeting to do a story on Walter Hill, however, she was asked to leave as women were not allowed to attend meetings. Jean wrote an editorial in which she criticized the Chamber for its exclusion of women. Shortly thereafter, she, along with Alice Haxton, and Grace Defore were voted in and became members.
Jean continued to lay the groundwork for women, as the only female reporter covering all-male council meetings.
Over the years, she had many other successful business ventures, including the Print Ship on Franklin Ave and the City Centre Car Wash.
Her love for writing and history continued later on in life, as she published a book “More Than Oil: Trappers, Traders and Settlers of Northern Alberta” on her 80th birthday.
In addition to all this, she was an active volunteer donating countless hours of her time and severed on a number of boards.
Jean also received many accolades for her efforts including the 1994 Alberta’s Small Businessperson of the Year, 1997 Keyano Distinguished Citizen Award, and the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray Integrity Award.
RMWB Mayor Don Scott tells Mix News she’s always been a community champion.
“I know she had many roles for many people, but my experiences with her is that she was one of our most vocal and fierce advocates and everything that was important to this region. She’ll be deeply, deeply missed.”
“I have two young daughters and if they have the same life that Mrs. Jean lived I’d be extremely, extremely proud,” added Scott.
Scott adds the flags will fly at half-mast early next week in honor of Jean.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking a donation be made in Jean’s name to the Northern Lights Health Foundation.
All the funds will be directed to the Willow Square Continuing Care Facility – a project the family says was ‘near and dear to her heart’.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the NorthLife Fellowship Baptist Church at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 1.