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.