Jean Speake knows how to make the most of retirement. She has traveled the world but also served her adopted community of Mountain View in 24 years of residence.
She and her husband Paul moved to Mountain View in 1997 after Jean retired from 20 years as a civil engineering technician with the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Miss. Paul, especially, loved the area, where the couple’s daughter Debra Alexander had made her home. Another daughter remained in Mississippi.
After Jean was widowed in 2001, Debra encouraged her to resume traveling, which was something she had enjoyed before moving from Mississippi.
And travel she did, going on more than 100 trips facilitated by a Mountain Home agency. She has been to Alaska four times and Hawaii twice, as well as to the Caribbean, Greece, London, Germany, Switzerland and other locations overseas. Her adventures include flying above an active volcano, visiting the Arctic Circle, and touring Pearl Harbor, which she described as one of the most heart-touching things she has ever experienced.
The 93-year-old with sparkling eyes and a sweet smile laughs while relating other escapades while in foreign countries and situations of other cultures.
Domestic adventures have also been exciting. Debra said Jean called her one day while on a trip to Albuquerque and said “guess what I’m doing.” Debra could hear an intermittent whooshing sound, which was explained when Jean revealed she was in a hot air balloon.
She also rode in a helicopter up to a glacier to go dog-sledding while in Alaska.
“And that wasn’t too many years ago,” Debra noted.
“You know that Alaskan Pipe Line?” Jean asked during this interview. “That thing’s huge.”
“I’ve been so blessed to have been the many places I have,” she said, “and seen all the things and met all of the people.”
Jean has stopped traveling, but is resuming volunteer activities to build on her 5,000 hours accumulated for the Stone County Medical Center Auxiliary. She reached the milestone just before the COVID-19 pandemic began and activities were put on hold.
After 14 months, the volunteer program has been reactivated and Jean plans to work one shift per week rather than two as she did previously.
“I’ve really enjoyed being out there,” Jean said of the medical center. “Not only do I feel like I’ve helped people, but they’ve helped me, too.”
Read the full story in the June 23, 2021 issue.