Irma Jean Herrmann

July 27, 1919October 21, 2013

Irma Jean Herrmann died in the Meadowood Health Pavilion on October 21, 2013, at the age of 94.

Born July 27, 1919, Jean grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. She was the second of seven children born to Dwight and Edna Sinclair. Her father was a photographer who owned a photography shop immediately outside the gates of Indiana University (above what is now Starbucks) and who contracted with the University to produce its yearbook for a number of years. Jean was an honor student at Bloomington High School and was active in Girl Scouts while in school. Graduating in 1937, she received a scholarship to IU, where she majored in Sociology with a minor in Journalism. While at IU, she dated the son of a missionary from India, Joyce Herrmann; both students were active in the Methodist Church. During summers, Jean worked as a Girl Scout Counselor in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jean and Joyce graduated from IU in 1941.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941, Joyce immediately enlisted in the Navy. He was sent to Hawaii, where he received a direct commission to Ensign and returned to the continental United States for training. During a break in training, he returned to Bloomington to marry Jean. During the war, Jean and Joyce were stationed in Glenco, Georgia, and then in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1944, Joyce was transferred to the Pacific Theater; expecting her first son, Jean remained behind in Bloomington.

At the end of the war, Joyce attended Northwestern University in Illinois, obtaining a law degree. On graduation, he opened a law office in Ligonier, Indiana. With two boys in their family at this point in time, Joyce accepted a position in the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer. Jean resided in Silver Spring, Maryland, while Joyce completed a training program. In 1950, because Joyce spoke fluent Urdu, they were assigned to Lahore, Pakistan, for a two-year assignment.

Leaving Pakistan in 1952, Jean returned to the United States, where their first daughter was born. Joyce again went through training to become a Political Officer; the family was subsequently assigned to Warsaw, Poland. They lived in Warsaw from 1954 to 1956; a second daughter was born in Berlin in 1954. Jean left Poland in 1956; Joyce was reassigned to Bombay, India, as an Economic Officer. Jean and her family, now numbering six, headed out for another overseas tour. The Herrmanns were in India from 1956 until 1959. While in Bombay, Jean was active with the American Women’s Club in Charity work. Her youngest daughter was born in Bombay.

In 1961, Jean moved to the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, where Joyce completed his second year of Arabic language training. Spouses were welcome in language classes, and Jean studied Arabic for two years.

After completing language school, the Herrmanns took leave in the United States, camping cross-country from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, Washington, down the Oregon and California coasts, through the U.S. Southwest and back to Washington. The family lived in a large Sears tent on this adventure, setting up camp each evening and striking the tent at dawn the following day. Jean cooked most of the family meals on a two-burner Coleman stove.

At the end of their leave, Jean and Joyce were assigned to the American Consulate in Jerusalem, Jordan. They lived in an old Arab house made of hand-cut limestone with a garden of rosemary and a sweeping view of the City of Jerusalem from their front porch.

In June 1967, war broke out between Israel and its surrounding Arab nations. Jean and her daughters were evacuated from Jerusalem before the fighting began; Joyce stayed on to assist Americans who were trapped in Jerusalem during the war. At the end of the six-day war, Joyce was reassigned to the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan, as a Political Officer, and was joined there by Jean and their daughters.

In 1969, fighting again broke out in Amman between the Jordanian Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Jean and her daughters were evacuated quickly to Athens; Joyce stayed on in Jordan. Jean and the girls were joined in Athens by their sons, on leave from the Army and the Air Force, and the family enjoyed the Greek Islands for nearly a month. Jean and her daughters returned to Amman after the fighting ceased.

Joyce was reassigned to Washington, D.C., at the end of the Amman Tour. He retired from the government and passed away in 1994. Jean worked as distributor for the Montgomery Journal, a local newspaper. Five years later, Jean sold their house in Bethesda, Maryland, and moved to Meadowood, where she lived for sixteen years.

Jean loved Meadowood and was an active resident for most of her stay in the retirement community, participating at the French Table, taking recorder and piano classes, learning to work with water colors and participating in Pub Crawls. She enjoyed taking visiting friends and family members on walking tours of the IU campus and on trips to Brown County.

Throughout her life, while raising her family and traveling to six overseas assignments, Jean served as the Alumni Secretary for her Bloomington High School Class and for her graduating class at Indiana University. She received recognition from her IU class in 1991 for fifty years of service to her class.

Jean is survived by a brother, Dick Sinclair, by sons George and Bill Herrmann and by daughters Nancy Buisson (in Normandy, France) and Susan Maguilla (on the island of Hawaii). Another daughter, Martha Ghaman, died in 2005. Jean will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery with Joyce early next year.

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Irma Jean Herrmann

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Judy Reynolds Staples

November 3, 2013

Rest in peace, Mumsey Jean. You brought so much joy to the world. From the day I met you, when you moved in two doors down -- I a self-conscious teenager and you a well-travelled mother of five -- you inspired me and made me feel special. You welcomed me into your home and served me tea and regaled me with fascinating stories from your life. Nobody could tell a story the way you did! There was not a pretentious bone in your body. You found humor in just about everything, especially yourself. Yet you had that solid midwestern character that grounded you throughout your life. I miss you and I love you very much, and your memory lives on in me.

October 26, 2013

Jean was very dear to me and was a shining star at Meadowood. Sharing a meal or visiting in the Fireplace Lounge always meant good conversation and good laughs. I will always miss her. Laura Mills

Ann Reynolds

October 26, 2013

My family considered Jean a second mother and dear friend. She will never be forgotten.