Whenever JoAnn and I would go next door to visit Mother and found her holding the phone and laughing uproariously, we didn’t have to ask who was on the other end of the line. It had to be old friend and former Penney’s co-worker Jean Kovaleski.
When we heard of Jean’s death at the age of 95, the sadness of her passing was lessened by thoughts of her tremendous example of faith, the love she freely shared with her family and friends and the immeasurable amount of joy and laughter she left as a legacy.
She went through life with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye and a something funny coming from her mouth. Her sense of humor is what comes to mind first. Growing up as a member of the Ruffing family of Locust Gap, her voice carried the faint Irish brogue of that village that sweetened the funny.
Jean was a local celebrity, regaling family, friends and acquaintances with wonderfully comic tales of her childhood, her fondness for sweets and every day events that were made special by her telling. She is fondly recalled for the laughter she spread among her co-workers at JC Penney’s in Mount Carmel and anyone on who ever went on bus trips she ran to concerts and shows as a fundraiser for the Catholic Daughters of America. Her own laughter always harmonized with the hilarity she produced.
Jean’s love for God, family and all those she held dear were are the core of her life. Her obituary noted, “Roman Catholic faith was the central part of her life and strengthened and sustained her as her health declined. Her acceptance of her illness was a living example of her unwavering trust in God.”
After the passing of her husband Frank, she spent nearly every day in the company of her sister and closest friend, Mary Ruffing, and those days began with Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
If I die and hear the lilt of Jean Kovaleski’s laughter mixing with that of those she is entertaining, I’ll know I’m in the right place.