Jean Sweany (Smith) Nekola died on May 1, 2015, at the age of 89. Born on Nov. 13, 1925, at Camp Lewis (now Fort Lewis), Washington, she was the daughter of Laura Ward Sweany and General Kenneth Shearer Sweany, a 1923 graduate of the US Military Academy. As an “Army Brat,” Jean grew up at a variety of Army posts from Fort Sill, Okla., and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to Madison Barracks, N.Y., and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as well as several civilian assignments. In 1942, she went to Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., graduating in 1946. In 1949, she went to the University of Missouri for her Master’s Degree in History. In 1951, Jean married Stephen H. Smith II, a 1944 graduate of the US Military Academy. Among Jean’s survivors is a son Stephen H. Smith III, married to Linda B. Smith (Hinesburg) and six beloved grandchildren, Graham L. Hubert, Connor Michael Smith, Emily B. Smith, Lucas K. Smith, Owen B. Smith, and Tiernan L. Smith; and a wonderful great-grandson, Miles Glindmyer. In 1966, Jean married William J. Nekola, who predeceased her in 1986. After retirement, she moved to South Burlington to be closer to her family. In 1993, she became a guide at the Shelburne Museum where she worked until 2009. Jean was a born teacher. As she said, “Teaching was always at the core of my existence.” She wanted to be a teacher from second grade on and was able to follow her chosen profession starting in the public school system of Jonesboro, Ark., and ultimately retiring as English Chairperson from St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, Md. In 1991, the Maryland Council of Teachers of English Language Arts selected Jean as Teacher of the Year. Over the course of her many years at St. Paul’s for Girls, Jean stressed two very personal core values: the ability to think deeply and clearly, and to act with honor and integrity. She was an inspirational presence for many of her students, many of whom stayed in touch over the years. Jean was a truly wonderful mother, grandmother and friend, and her inquisitive mind, smile and grace in the face of adversity are missed already. Jean resided at the Residence at Otter Creek, where she enjoyed many friendships and the wonderful care from the staff, whom she came to know so well. There will be a private family burial and memorial service celebrating Jean’s life on July 17, 2015, at a location to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jean’s name to St. Paul School for Girls, P.O. Box 10, Brooklandville, MD 21022; the Humane Society of Chittenden County; or to a charity of one’s choice.
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