URBANA — Jean Bibler Shumaker, 105, loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, passed away Saturday (Oct. 22, 2022).
Jean was born March 21, 1917, during a blizzard so bad they had trouble getting the doctor to her family’s Spring Brook farm southeast of Portland, Ind. She was the last of Charles Bibler and Ethel Mae (Ehrhart)’s four children and grew up happily in the woods and on the farm with her big brothers, Charles, Paul (Robbie) and Louis (Bussie), and their dog, Fritz. They gathered wildflowers for their mother and helped with farm chores — feeding baby sheep in the spring, weeding the strawberry patch and selling eggs to a traveling market on a truck that came down their farm lane from the "big city" of Salamonia, Ind., once a week.
As a child, she attended a one-room schoolhouse, Green Hill School, where the teachers rode horses and buggies to the door until April 1927, when the school was consolidated and she and her brothers were transferred. She graduated from Madison Township Consolidated School. She kept up with her studies well, even though she took over running the household at age 13 when her mother passed away unexpectedly from scarlet fever. Jean even had a spot in the junior play while handling annual suppers for a dozen local farmers assisting the Biblers with their harvest.
She married her husband, Ralph Woodrow Shumaker, in 1938. They moved to Urbana when Ralph took a job at Chanute Air Force Base, where he was later stationed after being called into service during WWII. Their daughter Linda (Ferrell) was born while Ralph was stationed in Germany. Their daughter Kathy (Brown) was born after Ralph returned. Jean tended to her family by replicating her own mother’s style of cooking, sewing all of her children’s clothes, creating decades of happy holiday memories for her family and even occasionally provided housing for young families in an apartment above the Shumaker home. She continued to sew until she was no longer able to — even sewing her granddaughter’s wedding dress when she was in her 80s, and teaching her great-granddaughters how to sew as late at age 99.
While she did not recall the flu pandemic of 1918 because she was an infant, she remembered her older brothers talking about it — and to live through two pandemics, four wars that her family served in and 21 presidents is an accomplishment in and of itself. When she was 97, she walked up the 97 steps of the Cana Island Lighthouse in Door County, Wis., and celebrated her 100th birthday with her family in Florida, near where she and Ralph used to vacation.
Jean credited her long life to clean living and a happy life — she never drank alcohol and exercised frequently, including walking a mile on her treadmill every day. She loved Jesus and was an active member of several local churches, including Webber Street Christian Church and First Christian Church, over the course of her life. She was, however, also very private and didn’t love people making a big fuss over her, even though she always made sure she looked ready for company. She wasn’t sure why the newspaper wanted to run a story when she turned 105 earlier this year and turned down several TV interviews at ages 100 and 105.
Services will not be held, and she no doubt wishes we would stop going on about her already.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Ethel Mae Ehrhart Bibler (1931); father, Charles Elmer Bibler (1976); husband, Ralph Woodrow Shumaker (2000); and brothers, Charles Warren Bibler (1997), Paul Robert Bibler (1999) and Louis Alan Bibler (2002).
Jean leaves behind two daughters, Linda Ferrell of Urbana and Kathy Brown of Champlin, Minn., as well as her sons-in-law, Dan Ferrell and Jim Brown. She also leaves behind three grandchildren, Jessica Wassenberg, Christian Brown and Beth Anderson, and their partners; and five great-grandchildren, Eleanor, Catelyn, Julia, Parker and Lily.
She was very loved, and she will be very missed.
Condolences may be offered at renner-wikoffchapel.com.