Janet Sue Jentes (nee Oberg)
CHICAGO — On February 5, 2021, Janet Sue Jentes (nee Oberg) brought peacefully to a close her nearly 90 years of active, adventuresome, and productive life.
Jan was born in 1931 in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the single daughter of a family of mixed Swedish and French-Canadian heritage. Jan was always proud of her “Yooper” background and returned annually to enjoy its North Woods beauty overlooking Lake Michigan.
After graduating from Escanaba High, Jan received her BA degree from the University of Michigan, concentrating in political science and active in numerous campus organizations including Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
On graduating from Michigan in 1953, Jan made one of her many adventuresome moves by enrolling in the Management Training Program at Radcliffe College, where a small group of young women were taught the elements of business, finance and management by professors from the Harvard Business School in the days before it admitted women. Following graduation, Jan was eagerly hired by Kendall Mills in a junior management position at its headquarters outside Boston.
Jan remained for several years in Boston before moving on to an even more venturesome undertaking when in September 1956 she married William Robert Jentes, whom she had met at the University of Michigan, and moved with him to France where he engaged in a Fulbright Scholarship in comparative law at the University of Grenoble, France, for the 1956-57 academic year.
Jan and Bill sailed for France shortly after their wedding, and spent a month attending an orientation to France and its culture conducted at the Sorbonne. Still stumbling with their French but increasingly opening their eyes to “La Belle France” and all it had to offer, the couple moved to Grenoble, where they settled in a private pension on the outskirts with beautiful views of the surrounding Alps and operated by a charming widow who taught painting in her basement studio.
While Bill attended law classes at the Faculty of Law, Jan rode her bike to the University for classes targeted at the many visiting European students interested in French language, literature and the arts. During the frequent vacations in the academic year, the couple took trips throughout France and neighboring countries, often resorting to hitchhiking to extend Bill’s modest Fulbright stipend. By year-end there were few of the “grand tour” sights that were left untouched.
Jan and Bill returned to the States and settled in Chicago in July 1957. Jan found work in the Personnel Office at Presbyterian Hospital, and Bill started at what became Kirkland & Ellis, where he remained until his retirement. The couple later moved to a row house in Old Town with a small rose garden that Jan lovingly tended. In 1966 Jan gave birth to her beloved daughter Justine, who lives with her partner Dan Kuruna, and their son, Laszlo in a nearby Chicago neighborhood. Jan and Bill made their final move in 1980 to their home on Lake Shore Drive.
Throughout Jan’s many years in Chicago she devoted her boundless energies and leadership talents to supporting and growing a broad spectrum of organizations, groups and institutions dedicated to advancing the City’s art, music, theater, historical awareness, and community development. Jan had a special love for the Art Institute of Chicago, where she served as the former Chair of its Chicago Woman’s Board and volunteered for over 40 years as a docent, gathering a group of visiting school children around her nearly every Tuesday to lead them on tours of the museum.
Jan volunteered her lecturing and touring skills to numerous other organizations that served diverse audiences and cultural interests, such as the Lyric Opera, the “Know Your Chicago” program of the University of Chicago, the Oriental Institute, and the Monday Class that presented talks on current events by leading professors from metropolitan colleges and universities. Jan broadened her own artistic, cultural, and especially musical knowledge through her subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera, Chamber Music Society, and Music of the Baroque. She also had an enduring interest in theater, funding with her husband the Jentes Family Theater at Chicago Shakespeare, and regularly attending Court and other local sites.
Jan continued to have an abiding interest in travel and learning about other people and places. She and Bill especially enjoyed accompanying the Chicago Symphony on its tours to Europe, Asia, and South America.
Arrangements by Cremation Society of Illinois, 773-281-5058 or www.cremation-society.com.