Jeanne Cleary Goessling, mother of nine and creator of miniature letterpress books, died peacefully and unexpectedly in Minneapolis, MN on December 23, 2013, seven weeks after a joyful celebration of her 90th birthday.
Jeanne was born to James and Evelyn Cleary on Oct. 26, 1923, in Oak Park, IL. She went to New Trier High School in Winnetka and received a BA in English from the University of Chicago in 1944. Against her parents’ wishes, she enlisted in the newly formed Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and served as a photographer at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA from 1944 to 1946. After WWII Jeanne sought work back in Chicago, and was interviewed at Marshall Field & Co. by Francis (Mick) Goessling - who did not hire her but instead asked her out on a date. They married in 1950 and were devoted partners until his death in 2001. The couple lived in Wilmette, Highland Park and Winnetka, IL before moving to Morristown, NJ in 1961. They moved to Mendham in 1964 and lived there until Mick’s retirement in 1982.
Jeanne and Mick had seven sons and two daughters, and Mick’s mother Fay shared their home for over two decades. While running a household for 12, Jeanne volunteered with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Neighborhood House in Morristown, NJ. Once her youngest entered first grade, she commuted to Rutgers University and earned her master’s in Library Science in 1972. She was a librarian at Bayley-Ellard High School in Madison from 1972 to 1982. After the couple returned to Evanston, IL, Jeanne worked for the Pioneer Press as a copy editor and fact checker.
In Evanston, Jeanne learned letterpress printing and book binding, began collecting miniature books and produced her own under the imprint Gray Goose Press. Throughout her life she produced wonderful art in many mediums, but was most noted for her miniature books, Nevelson-like assemblages and fanciful snowflake ornaments fashioned from tin can lids.
In 1999 Jeanne and Mick moved to Esko, MN to share a home with son Stephen and his family. There she was a member of the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Cloquet and the Daughters of Isabella. An enthusiast of life-long learning, Jeanne attended and facilitated classes at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s University for Seniors.
Jeanne’s zest for and fascination with language was ongoing - from voracious reading to Scrabble and Boggle games, Great Books classes to New York Times crossword puzzles, New Yorker discussion groups to theater attendance. She was, in the words of Edith Wharton, “unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.”
Jeanne came from a happy extended family, and she raised another. She is survived by her nine children and 12 grandchildren: Daniel (and Sam, Joe and Tim) of Wayland, MA; David and Amy Biggers Goessling of High Bridge, NJ; Kate Goessling Madson of Port Ludlow, WA; Mary Faith Goessling of Jamaica Plain, MA; Paul Goessling, (and Andy and Evelyn) of Berkeley, CA; Robert and Elisabeth Perry Goessling (and Caleb and Emma) of Edgerton, WI; Andrew and Alison Boardman Goessling of Long Valley, NJ; Stephen and Maura Collins Goessling, (and Raleigh, Parker and Audrey) of Yarmouth, ME; and Ted and Jacquelynn Cowdery Goessling (and Louis and Thành) of Minneapolis, MN; her three sisters and two brothers, numerous nieces and nephews, as well as close cousins and dear friends.
Per her wishes she has been cremated. A celebration of her life will be held at St. Athanasius Church in Evanston, IL the weekend of April 26-27. Please consider a donation to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, 20 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 520, Chicago, IL 60602. To convey comments, get more information, and debate the merits of Oxford commas, visit the comments page.