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Former librarian, 45-year 4-H leader dies

January 28, 2009
Jewell Sears, 94, died Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, at her home in Greenville.

Jewell Sears
Sears, who lived most of her life in Grantsburg, was a retired teacher, former head librarian at the Crawford County Public Library and served as a 4-H leader for more than 45 years. She was a member of the English Senior Citizens and Grantsburg Community Church, where she taught Sunday school for years. She was a monitor for the National Weather Service.

Sears began teaching in the early 1930s in one- and two-room schools at Grantsburg and Sulphur. After the Grantsburg School closed, she taught at English Elementary, retiring in 1976. Students remember her as a strict disciplinarian who demanded they strive to succeed.

"She was a real slave driver," Linda Painter, a former Grantsburg School student, said. "I am so thankful that she was. We learned so much from her. She saw that everyone did the very best possible. I was in the other class, but I heard what was going on and learned a lot."

Sears also knew how to have fun with her students. In a tribute written several years earlier, Richard Scott, former Crawford County sheriff and Indiana State Police detective, wrote:

"When recess came, Jewell was always on the playground and not as a monitor but as a pitcher, umpire or referee."

The last week of school meant a trip to Spring Mill State Park, and anyone with perfect attendance got a card and a bright, shiny new dollar.

Scott lived next to the two-room school that housed four grades in each room.

"There was a pot-bellied coal stove in each room, a large crock of water and a cup for each student with his or her name on it. Jewell drafted me into the first grade when I was 5 and she was my teacher for the next eight years," he wrote.

Sears graduated from Burnett Grade School and English High School.

"Mom began her college education at Indiana Central in Indianapolis," daughter Sue Parr of New Haven, Ky., said. "Her dad paid her tuition with dressed beef, which he delivered to the school cafeteria. She worked in the cafeteria to meet other expenses.

"Mom could manage and make do," Parr said. "When she was teaching at Grantsburg, there was no money for supplies, and she took what she needed from home. We had to wait to trim our Christmas tree until after the program at school because our decorations were used there first."

A book-lover, Sears was the driving force behind Crawford County's first public library. In 1953, with a friend, she collected more than 800 names, successfully petitioning county commissioners to appropriate funds. She was a charter member of the library board. After retiring from teaching, she was named head librarian, commuting to Indiana University Bloomington to earn the proper credentials.

Sears was active in community projects. Wayne Carothers, former president of the English Civic Club, who worked with her at English Reunion and 4-H fairs, said she would sell ride tickets from 8 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. if needed. Whether working with her 4-H'ers or others, Carothers said, "Jewell was always ready to roll her sleeves up and participate."

She has grandchildren who will attest to that.

Albert Parr of New Haven, Ky., remembers his grandmother staying up all night to help him do an extra-credit project.

"I wasn't going to pass an honors English class without the project," Parr, who needed the credit for early high school graduation, said. "I wasn't honors material and was really struggling, but Granny said, 'Let's do it.' So, we did."

With Susie Benham, it was about finishing a quilt. She had two toddlers and only three weeks to meet a deadline.

"The quilt was on the frame," she said. "But with the boys and all, it just wasn't happening. I was in tears and getting pretty frantic when I told Granny."

The next morning — and every morning for the next 2-1/2 weeks — Sears arrived at the Benhams with her quilting needle stuck in her dress, ready to work.

"We finished the quilt on time," Benham said. "I couldn't have done it without her help."

Sears required much of her 4-H members.

"But she was always ready to help," Billie Laswell Hart of Dubois, a great-niece, said.

That included keeping insects in her freezer for entomology collections, Hart recalled.

"I always went to her freezer to see what new bugs she had," she said.

That was only part of Sears' nature study. Her children recall her taking them (and later their children) hiking along old riverboat trails from Leavenworth to Fredonia.

"She pointed out plants and trees and taught us their names, medicinal purposes, the whole works," Sue Parr said. "It was a real nature walk."

Sears earned the John Campanius Holm Award (the National Weather Service's second-highest honor) for her outstanding contributions to the Service's Cooperative Weather Obser-vation Program.

Sears was born Nov. 29, 1914, in Burnett and was the daughter of Lloyd Froman and Minnie Alice Patrick.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Franklin Sears; a brother, Craig Froman; and two sisters, Roberta Froman and Gertrude Knorr.

Survivors include a son, Bobbie Jo Sears of Crawfordsville; four daughters, Carol Sue Parr of New Haven, Ky., Sandra Lou Sears and Jacqueline S. Williams, both of Bradford, and Sharon Lynn Riddle of Grantsburg; 13 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren.

The funeral was Saturday at Denbo Funeral Home in English with burial in Union Chapel Cemetery at Grantsburg. Brother Eric Satterfield officiated. Music was provided by Rodney Beasley and Patty Satterfield.

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