If you’re about to throw away that empty cereal box — stop.
Instead, consider Norma Jean Lind, (you knew her as Jean). She would turn it inside out to become a Christmas gift box. Or she’d grab some floral contact paper and transform it into a sock drawer divider. Or she’d hermetically laminate it with packaging tape to mail you homemade goodies. Or she’d fashion it into armor to protect your BLT on a mountain hike.
Frugality and ingenuity were hallmarks of Jean’s life, a worldview that rejected the notion that anything or anyone is truly discardable.
It’s a mindset that was instilled by her parents in a hardscrabble childhood in the post-World War II era. And it’s an ethos that she drilled into her own seven children for decades before passing away on June 3, 2023 from cancer at age 77.
Jean was born in Provo, Utah, on March 1, 1946, the third of 11 children born to Arlo Kitchen and Fern Chase.
She was magnetized to the mountains her entire life and vowed she’d never leave them. They were the majestic backdrop for her childhood (rural Utah and Idaho), her education (a degree in child development from Utah State University), her marriage (Bruce Lind) and her decades of homemaking (Idaho Falls). And the mountains were her favorite world in which to escape, even for week-long solo camping trips once her children were grown.
As a young mom, Jean adored her role as a Boy Scout leader, an experience that ignited 40 years of jury-rigging all kinds of contraptions to make camp life exciting for the whole family. She rebuffed modern conveniences for the flavor of meals slowly roasted over campfire coals, the magic of rain falling on the tent roof and the wonder of the Tetons silhouetted against the Milky Way.
Was that her out dancing in the campsite meadow in the moonlight?
Why, yes, it was.
Jean moved to her own music like that, and she made sure her children discovered their own soundtracks, too.
She threw her kids — sometimes against their will — into everything from tap dancing to karate to ice skating to baton twirling, just to see what would stick. She bounced tennis balls off their heads trying to teach them the same sport she’d excelled at in college. She rolled kickballs to them from the pitcher’s mound, musing that one day her family might grow large enough to comprise its own softball team. She plied them with stove-popped popcorn to lure them into watching boring but important nature shows. She made them sit through the long version of The Nutcracker to emphasize the importance of arts and culture. She required each of them to at least try to learn a musical instrument; those who couldn’t were given a jar of beans to shake.
Hers was a house of hard work.
Clothes? The older kids’ hand-me-downs.
Bread? Homemade from flour she ground herself.
Fruits and vegetables? Hand-canned from her garden.
Christmas tree? Always fresh-cut, with her flocking gun loaded.
Yet for all of Jean’s homemaking prowess, the most formidable arena to enter was her sewing room.
She parlayed a flair for making her children’s Halloween costumes, Easter dresses and wedding gowns (for all four daughters and all three daughters-in-law, from scratch without patterns) into years as a professional seamstress. She could spot a loose button from a mile away, and an offer to take your coat was often a ruse to tighten a seam or patch a hole faster than you could say “thanks Mom.”
Jean’s most enduring legacy, however, is the way she patched up people.
She loved deeply and hugged gently. Many broken hearts were soothed at her kitchen table over Scrabble marathons she deftly would drag out for hours so as to not rush the conversation.
The gospel of Jesus Christ was an important touchstone for her, and she served in several volunteer positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was no less in her element teaching a small group of children to sing as she was teaching a large crowd of women to master Dutch-oven cooking. But no calling made as much impact on her as Blazer leader in the Boy Scouts; it was a source of great pride for her to pin all three sons to the highest rank of Eagle Scout before they each served two-year church missions.
She modeled not only strong faith but astonishing perseverance throughout her life.
Even during her grueling final climb, she continued to urge her family to follow in the footsteps the Savior laid. It is a message of endurance and devotion that echoes down and through and onto us all.
Jean’s strong will and gentle spirit will live on in the hearts of her children: Bonita (George) Miyagi, Ben (Jaime) Lind, Katy Deacon, Tyler (Cathy) Lind, Nanette (Randall Neiwirth) Duncan and Corbin (Kristen) Lind; her 20 grandchildren; and her siblings Margaret (LaRell Van Dyke, Darlene Hansen, Shirley Miller, Kenneth (Molly) Kitchen, Thomas (Janice) Kitchen, Barbara (Keith) Anderson, Sara Kitchen and Darwin (Laurie) Kitchen.
She was preceded in death by her parents, sisters Francie (William) Fiedler and Cynthia (James) Dye; her daughter, Billie Lind; and her son-in-law, Stuart Deacon.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 12, 2023 at Nalder Funeral Home, 110 W. Oak Street, in Shelley, Idaho.
Interment will be in the Taylor Cemetery, nestled in the foothills of Taylor Mountain.