Jean Jirka

Jean Jirka

July 22, 1952 – January 22, 2023

VISITATION: Friday, January 27th, 5-7pm, at West Center Chapel.

SERVICE with Nurse Honor Guard: Saturday, January 28th, 10am, at West Center Chapel. To view a live broadcast of the service, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Cast” button.

In lieu of flowers, memorials will be directed by the family.


Jean Marie (Ulrich) Jirka, 70, passed away on January 22, 2023. Jean got to spend her last days on earth surrounded by her loving family and a staff of nurses that Jean had trained to become exceptional caregivers. Jean was born July 22, 1952, in Beatrice, Nebraska. Like most girls brought up on the farm, Jean got to share her chores with her twin sister Joanie, elder sisters Judy and Ginny, and oldest brother Steve. After Jean completed her schooling, she decided that farming was for the farmers and chose to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Louise Genevieve Ulrich, and sister Judy (Ulrich) Minor, to become a nurse.

She educated her students the way she treated her patients, with love, care, and compassion.  She was soft-spoken, but her mentorship and empathy for her students were built from her dedication to nursing through education and relationships. Jean worked as a high-risk Obstetric nurse for Methodist Hospital, The National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD as a nurse for Cardiology Diagnostics, served as a nurse in Germany as a civilian, and as a Nursing Professor at Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, NE. She spent nearly 50 years as a nurse.

Nursing was how Jean met her husband, John. Jean happened to be looking for a toddler in the pediatric unit, and Dr. John Jirka was looking for a date to a dance. Jean accepted the invitation, and from that moment on, she and John got to enjoy season Husker football games, traveling the world and creating a wonderful family. The family was made purely out of love. In the 49 years John and Jean have been married, they have had two biological children; in which Jared Charles Jirka was taken too soon in infancy and has been waiting for Jean in heaven. Then came the blessing of Brier Ann Jirka. Jean and John had more love to give, so they decided to adopt two children.

The greatest joy, later in Jean’s life, was the additions of her beautiful grandchildren. If Jean could do anything in the world, it would be to hold every grandchild, every moment of every day. Jean and John were significant grandparents to Bryce, Blake, and Bianca Barr. Jean enjoyed watching the boys run around the house, be loud to the dogs, and battle over the silliest toys. She enjoyed the babble conversations turning into language, turning into conversations with Bianca. Ronin, Athena, and Christian looked forward to getting Disney toys and Disney clothes from grandma and grandpa Jirka. Ronin and Athena knew Grandma Jean did not walk much, but she gave the best hugs. Christian got to enjoy Grandma Jean for 2 ½ months of his life. Christian was the calmest and felt safe in Grandma Jean’s arms while she was in the hospital bed. Jean loved life; she loved her family greatly, and she loved her grandkids greater.

Jean’s passions were undoubtedly traveling, reading, and teaching. Besides traveling to Germany, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, France, Luxembourg, Scotland, Greece, Great Britain, Israel, Kenya, Netherlands, Spain, and Tokyo, Jean’s most favorite international stops included Thailand, where she adopted her son, Tyler, and Brazil, where she adopted her youngest son, Jacob.  Jean’s favorite places to travel were places she could bring and leave behind 4-5 books. Jean got to check off a bucket list destination with an Alaskan cruise that was put on hold due to her Brain Aneurysm in 2012. Jean and John demanded their kids to know Disney, sing Disney and Be Disney. Nearly every Disney destination was visited, and Jean got to explore what she came to know and love about Disney with her grandchildren.

The angels have been waiting for Jean since 2012. Jean lived a full life twice. Jean is carried on through her core values and the love she has shown to not only her family but also her students. If you knew Jean, you knew that care, compassion, and truth are what she encompassed. Jean and John were all about love. Brier Jirka was given mother’s stubbornness and compassion for others. Tyler Jirka was given mother’s extremely dry sense of humor and love for privacy to reflect. Jacob Jirka got mother’s sense of adventure and to make sure to have fun in this life. We all do not get two lives. Jean lived them both to the fullest and made the world a better place.

10 Comments

  • Linda Lair Posted January 25, 2023 1:14 pm

    I am so sorry for Jean’s passing .She truly was a caring nurse and a great mentor for me. I taught Pediatrics with her Obstetrics course at Midland University. You will be in my prayers..

  • Donnetta Perkins Posted January 25, 2023 3:25 pm

    Sending love and prayers your way!

  • Richard and Laura Ulrich Ronning Posted January 25, 2023 4:26 pm

    Dear John, Brier and family, Tyler and Jacob,

    We are so sorry for your loss of your wonderful wife, mother and clearly loving grandmother to your children. I feel fortunate to have known her as a cousin with whom to play in the creek between our farms. I know that you will miss Jean terribly, and we are praying for your peace and comfort during this very difficult time. Richard and Laura Ulrich Ronning

  • Susan H Wood Posted January 26, 2023 1:39 pm

    I knew Jean for over a decade as my colleague at Midland University. I deeply regret your loss.

  • Nancy Ann Harms Posted January 26, 2023 2:16 pm

    Jean was truly one of a kind! She was passionate about so many things and shared that passion with others. I was fortunate to be Jean’s boss at Midland and from that experience became her friend. Her determination and perseverance was unreal, especially following her brain aneurysm. She worked so hard to recover and we were able to enjoy fun times together. Jean will truly be missed! Our thoughts and prayers are with you all! Nancy Harms & Gerhart Wehrbein

  • Laura Borgmeyer Posted January 26, 2023 11:19 pm

    I worked with Jean years ago at Methodist call center. She was a very hard working nurse and a very interesting person. I have never met a more loyal Disney fan. She was so proud of her family. I am glad to have known Jean and I am so very sorry to hear of her passing. I pray that God will bring peace and comfort to your family.

  • Amanda Barrera Posted January 28, 2023 3:17 pm

    Brier
    From what I learned your mother was a phenomenal woman. I hope your memories of her gives you the strength for the challenging days.
    Amanda Barrera

  • Gary and Barbe O’Hara Posted January 30, 2023 9:15 am

    We are very sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you John and your family ! Jean was a very special person.

  • Kathy (Katie) Breth Posted January 30, 2023 6:43 pm

    I am one of Jean’s cousin. My father was in the Air Force, so it was sometimes hard to visit.However, In the late ‘50’s and all through the ‘60’s we would always visit for 2 weeks. I would spend most of my time having fun with all my cousins at the farms. We (I) loved roaming around the farms with them. Being sort of a city girl helping them do their chores on the farm was a highlight for me. We loved going to the community pool in Wilbur and going to Dairy Queen in Beatrice. I had the best food at the farms and I loved going to the big family picnics. All the cousins were in charge of cranking the ice cream maker at those picnics! That was work. My mother,Norma was also a nurse. She was the first daughter to study beyond high school. I like to think she also had an influence on Jean’s choice to become a nurse.. I will always hold dear all those memories. Kathy (Katie) Breth

  • Jacob Jirka Posted January 31, 2023 6:34 pm

    LOVE YOU MOTHER! YOU ARE THE BEST WOMAN I EVER GOT TO KNOW! I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU! ALWAYS LIVEFOR YOU! ALWAYS BE THERE FOR THE FAMILY LIKE YOU WANTED! REST IN PARADISE! YOUR YOUNGEST SON JACOB

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