Jean Eleanor Carlen
Jean Eleanor Lovejoy Carlen left her physical being in this world to join hands once again with her beloved husband Raymond Nils Carlen on Tuesday, July 20. While her later years witnessed much suffering she graciously left this world in much the same manner as she had lived her life, a queen in attendance until the end.
Born on June 29, 1920 in Chicago, Ill, Jean attended the Harris School for Girls in Chicago learning all of the finer points of etiquette and education, going on to graduate from the University of Illinois in Champaign. Jean joined and then became President of the Illinois Zeta chapter of Pi Beta Phi, continuing this fraternity connection throughout her life with the Hinsdale Alumnae Pi Phi. It was during this higher level of education that she met, then married (sans football helmet) Ray Carlen who was eventually to become President of Joseph T. Ryerson & Son Steel Company. During the war years (the one that would end all such means of negotiation , WW II) Jean honed her sales skills at Marshall Field & Co. where she was a merchandise buyer (again quite the trend groundbreaker as this position was usually filled by a male), but it was at Ray’s side through his career at Ryerson where all of her social and event planning abilities really shone.
Persevering through her own difficulties at many times Jean was a champion for all of the appropriately correct things to do. She supported the many moves a husband’s career necessitated, raised two intelligent and caring children (Susan & Cynthia), and was instrumental in not only the volunteer causes of her husband but also of her children and her own. In 1960, with the assistance of but a handful of others, she organized an entire "Suzy League" softball association in Hinsdale, Illinois so that her daughters would have the opportunities that at the time were offered only to male-oriented "Little League". Truly a visionary leadership role way ahead of its politically correct time, as generations of female baseball leagues followed this historic first.
In Hinsdale she was voluntarily instrumental in the Community House, Hinsdale Community Memorial Hospital of Western Springs, and the Parent Teachers Organization; planning ice cream socials, debutante events, Easter basket selling, and other creative fundraising endeavors with her skills in theme parties legendary. She made sure that her daughters had all the opportunities in life she could provide whether swimming lessons, ballet, dance, or sports.
Later in life she was a wonderfully kind and doting grandmother to daughter Sue’s two children, Lauren and Jacquie; giving generously of herself and continuing her love of themed gifts and parties. She was a humorously simpatico foil but attentive and welcoming listener to Cindy’s husband, Jay Ruzak, who earned his Carlen chevrons at Ryerson with Jean’s husband Ray. In her retirement years Jean continued long friendships that started in college then continued through Steel Industry careers; such as those with Mary Fran Gillan, Julie Brown and Fran Murray. She continued the founding of such helpful organizations such as Wee Care Day Care Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, and then New Song. During her middle sixties Jean also returned to the classroom to obtain a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the Alfred Adler Institute.
A woman of so many accomplishments through her many skills at utilizing others to the best of her, and their, abilities; she proficiently gathered many groups of friends and support about her throughout the years. Her household companion of over 20 years, Addie Carmichael passed on just two months ago. However, a fact known to but a few of her friends is that Jean was the inspiration behind the invention of the "Winky Dink" TV screen.
Her circle of friends and caring supporters grew as she toured the care facilities of Scottsdale, Arizona where one of her continued loves was going out for lunch or dinner or having her hair done. The family will be eternally grateful to those who helped make her final years more liveable with dignity and quality: Rosetta & Ben, Maria, Laurinda, Becky, Rita, Dottie, and many more.
As she departs to places "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" with a final salute to the Wine and Silver Blue we will all miss her engaging and entertaining ways.
A memorial service was held on Wednesday, July 28 at 10am in the Timothy Stone Chapel at the 4th Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut (Michigan & Chestnut corner) Chicago, Illinois. Jean and Ray were married in this chapel on June 15, 1946. Burial was in Arlington Memorial Cemetery, 6202 Charles St., Rockford, Ill.