Our beloved Mother, Laura Jean Stockwell Breneman, age 90, died peacefully on October 20, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Jean, as she was known to family and friends, was born on Christmas day, December 25, 1926, in Pontiac, Michigan to Elmer and Gertrude Stockwell. She moved with her mother and brother to Nebraska after her father died in 1935.
Jean graduated from Broken Bow High School in 1942, at the age of 16; afterward she taught school in rural Nebraska, under an emergency program to staff schools following the onset of World War II. Also, she and her mother both worked in a munitions factory in Grand Island
Jean married Ray Milton Breneman, a big band musician, in Grand Island, Nebraska in August 1945. At the end of that era, they moved to Arizona in 1951 when Ray found work with Kennecott. The family first lived in the mining town of Ray. They moved to Kearny in 1958, when Kennecott built the town to accommodate the relocation of families from Ray and Sonora; as the open pit mining operation expanded. They were one of the first families to move to Kearny, and Jean spent 55 years of her life in this wonderful place. They raised their 10 children in Kearny, and toward the end of Ray’s life adopted two of their grandchildren. Ray passed away in 1987.
Mother had a great love of theater, music and books, and instilled that love in her children. She was an avid participant in the town’s little theater group and an organizer of many “hootenannies” during the early 1960’s. Mom’s main focus was always the family but she had many jobs outside of home. She became a Certified Professional Secretary in the mid 1960’s, and worked for Kennecott for many years; starting as a statistical typist and finally as Kennecott’s first female frontline field repair foreman. She really loved her last two jobs, first as clerk for Justice of the Peace, Kelly Haddad, and then serving out his term as Justice for the Pinal County 6th District of Kearny and Superior following Judge Haddad’s death. Jean also served as an interim justice for the Mesa Municipal court for a year.
She was a devout Catholic, and a parishioner of Infant Jesus of Prague Catholic Church in Kearny, serving as volunteer secretary/bookkeeper for several years after the Parish was established. She regularly attended daily and Sunday Mass, and served in many roles, preferring to be a lector.
A highlight of her life was when her childhood friend from Nebraska, George Knoell, became her companion. They had been family friends since childhood, and after his wife, Edna, died, they began seeing each other and fell in love. George moved from his home in Tempe to Kearny. They shared and enjoyed 16 years together, attending daily mass, traveling to visit family and friends around the country, and visiting many religious sites and shrines in the United States and Europe. Their favorite trip was to Rome and the Vatican at Christmastime one year. Also, they enjoyed an “around the world” trip. George passed away in 2013.
Mom loved to talk, and her stories about her life, family and friends entertained everyone. She enjoyed games, especially Scrabble, and was a member of the bridge club in Kearny until it disbanded. She enjoyed, and always looked forward to, daily visits with her best friend, Bernice Hansen. She moved to Salt Lake City in 2013 to be closer to her daughter, Laura Joyce.
She is survived by her children: Ray M. Breneman, Jr.; Laura Joyce (Sidney) Williams; Allison M. (Michael – (d)) Converse; Daniel F.(Donna) Breneman; John Reilly (Ay) Breneman; Timothy C. Breneman; Stephanie F. (George) White; Thaddeus E. Breneman; Cynthia K. Breneman; Geneva L. Breneman; and Joseph P. (Nancy) Breneman. She had 14 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother (Daniel K. Stockwell), her husband (Ray M. Breneman, Sr.), a son (Matthew D. Breneman), son-in-law (Michael L. Converse) and granddaughter (Deborah M. Starich).
A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 at Holy Cross Catholic Church 1244 S. Power Rd., Mesa, AZ, at 10 a.m. Inurnment will follow at Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, 1652 E. Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ, where she will be inurned with her husband, Ray.
The staff of St. Joseph Villa provided kind and thoughtful care during mother’s residence; especially Anwar, Andrew, Katacha, Matilla, Stephan and Symbii Hospice nurse Melinda.