Jeanne Goldoff Bearmon had longed to go to college. But that was a tall order for a young woman from a working-class Brooklyn family in the 1940s.
With her eye on the G.I. Bill, she enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 during World War II. While serving in the Army Air Corps she arrived in Great Britain on D-Day, and rose to the rank of captain.
Returning home, she didn’t lose sight of her dream. She married but put off having kids until she had earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Then, after raising her four children in St. Louis Park, she became a licensed psychologist and established a successful practice while volunteering for those in need.
Bearmon, of St. Louis Park, died July 13 from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at Trillium Woods in Plymouth. She was 95.
Her elegance, strength and fearlessness charted the course for their entire family, her three daughters say.
Bearmon was born in Brooklyn, the oldest of three children, and showed she was gutsy at an early age. When she heard moviemakers were casting for “Gone with the Wind,” she went to an audition in her best wool suit, confident that Scarlett O’Hara was the role she was born to play.
She didn’t get the part but became an avid champion of theater and the arts, later helping her actor daughter Maggie Pistner, of Minnetonka, prepare for roles.
“There was nothing she would not tackle,” said her longtime friend, Anita Besack, of Minneapolis.
As a personnel officer in the Army Air Corps, she was stationed part of the time in London as the Nazis bombed the city. She reorganized the personnel files, developing a system later adopted by the entire army, her daughters said.
She met sailor and Minnesota native Samuel Bearmon while on a blind date in Lowell, Mass. Most of their courtship consisted of letters written while she served in Europe and he served in Hawaii, but after the war they married in New York and moved to Minnesota.
Although Jeanne Bearmon was born Jewish, she didn’t embrace religious observances until later in life. Her children recall the traditional shabbat dinners she hosted every Friday with linens, fine china and candles.
“You can be busy during the week, but on Friday night you were home. It was about family,” Pistner said.
Bearmon earned her master’s degree in her 50s and became a licensed psychologist, developing a niche in her practice providing counseling for family businesses that were splitting up.
She volunteered for the Walk-In Counseling Center, which offered free mental health counseling to people with urgent needs. She also helped establish the Coming Home Collaborative, a joint venture with the Walk-In center and a local Lutheran church designed to help Gulf War veterans and their families readjust to civilian life.
Once retired, Bearmon developed and led groups that offered support and personal growth. Her most recent group, “What’s Next,” helped women nearing retirement and other life milestones.
She wrote two memoirs, one of which a theater director turned into a play titled, “They Called Her Captain.” Pistner, playing her mother, performed it at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the Sabes Jewish Community Center.
Bearmon approached her final days with her usual strength and elegance, her children say.
“She felt very fortunate she had time to say goodbye. She said she didn’t know this process would be so wonderful,” said daughter Hilary Bearmon, of Plymouth. “It was peaceful. It was painless and she was loved.”
Besides Pistner and Hilary Bearmon, she is survived by another daughter, Janet Cleary, of Hopkins; a son, Dr. Paul Bearmon, of Edina, and six grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband, brother and sister.