Jeanne North

The obituary below was written by Charles North, Jeanne North’s son:

My mother, Jeanne Foote North, passed away last Wednesday, July 8. She was 90 years old.

On June 28, while in the hospital, she had decided – with her usual perfect clarity of reason and determination – that it was time to let her body go. She spent the next ten days at home in hospice care enjoying visits and calls from family and friends reminiscing about the wonderful times they had had together. She had calls from Vietnam, Mexico, Liberia, Louisiana, and California. She charmed and built friendships with the hospice nurses and nursing aides who took care of her – as she did with everyone all her life: telling stories, sharing a laugh, and caring for those who cared for her.

From an early age, mom was a fierce advocate for racial and gender equality – from a speaking tour on racial equality in 1930s Alabama, her home state, to advocating in the early 1970s for the rights of women divorced or widowed by their Foreign Service husbands. She had an adventurous spirit that led her to teach school in post-war Hawaii (Kauai).

She later traveled with her husband/my father, Haven North, on his assignments with Point Four and USAID to Ethiopia (1952-1957), Nigeria (1961-1965), and Ghana (1970-1975). My sister was two years old when they went to Ethiopia; my brother was born in Ethiopia; and I was less than a year old when we moved to Nigeria. To ensure we had good schools to attend, she was a founding board member of the American International School of Lagos and Chair of the Board of the Lincoln Community School in Accra. She also served on the boards of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She applied her Masters in Medical Social Work (Columbia U.) to many issues: working as a social worker in Presbyterian Hospital in NYC, introducing social work concepts to nursing students in Ethiopia, conducting one of the first Women in Development studies for USAID in Ghana, working with young women in the Job Corps program in Washington, D.C., and, through NAMI, counseling families dealing with mental illness.

She joined USAID in 1976 as a Civil Service Social Scientist; rising to become a GS-15, she focused on institution building, development management. and policy reform. She designed and managed the Implementing Policy Change program, based on social work principles that emphasized the central role of the people and governments of developing countries in leading their own development, with donors and consultants playing a facilitative and supporting role. That project shaped, and continues to influence, the thinking of many development practitioners.

With retirement, she dedicated more time to social causes, to the church, and to her art. She studied painting at the Yellow Barn at Glen Echo Park and livened our walls with beautiful portraits and landscapes. She and my father had a wonderful, loving marriage that lasted almost 65 years. She was a devoted mother and grandmother and my mentor and role model. We will all miss her.

We will hold a memorial service for her at Bethesda United Methodist Church on July 26 at 2:00 for those who would like to attend.

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