Erma Jean (Hassman) Shea 1932-2022

Jean (Hassman) Shea was born June 1, 1932, in a small home on the family farm 18 miles northwest of the Town of Yuma, Colorado. She passed peacefully at the age of 90 years old surrounded by her family and friends in Collier Hospice Center, Wheat Ridge, CO November 1, 2022.
Jean is preceded in death by her husband of 64 years John Joseph (Joe) Shea, her youngest daughter Peggy Ann, her father Matthew Lee Hassman and mother Lucille Theresa (Keuter) Hassman, her brothers Robert L. Hassman and Wayne M. Hassman and daughter-in-law Davette Rae (Jackson) Shea. She is survived by her children David, Gary, Jim, Dennis, and wife Cindy, Diane, husband Dr. Anthony Deckert, Grand Children, Caitlin, Kyle, Riley, Orion, Carson, and Tom Quinn.
Jean was born in the northeast bedroom of the small house on the family farm that was part of her great grandparents Nickolas Ottle family homestead. Her life’s early memories of feeding chickens, milking cows “by hand” watching her father plant, grow and harvest crops for the market, her mother baking homemade bread, preparing meals for the family, and large harvest crews that would come through each year. Cold winter mornings waiting in her warm bed until her Mom had shoveled a path in the snow to the outhouse and warmed the seat before she ventured the trip. Helping her Mom grow a garden and then canning the fresh vegetables to help get by the winter months. “We did not have a lot of money, but we had eggs and milk and made our own butter. We did have Lots of Love”. At a young age climbing the windmill and getting stuck! She said her father could tell the changing weather by which way it faced.
Jean started school at age 5 to be “company” for her cousin, who was the only girl in a one room Plain View School House, 1/4 mile north of their home. She thought she was there to play and when the teacher made her read, she got mad and crawled under a table. After a swat on the butt, she grabbed her lunch pail and ran all the way home crying. School got better after that.
The first family bicycle was a “boys’ bike”. Jean learned to ride by leaning it against the wall in the barn, putting her leg through the bars to the pedals, pushing off, and coasting out and down the dirt drive. To stop she would shove the bike to the left and, jump to the right.
Her father Matthew (Shorty) was an amazing musician, playing any instrument without a single lesson, including the violin, saxophone, and harp. Her father, mother, aunts, and uncles were all great singers and Jean had fond memories of family gatherings and the wonderful harmony. Her mother Lucille (Lu) was an amazing cook and homemaker, quilting, mending, and sewing to keep her family warm and clothed. Jean learned, continued, and passed on these talents!
When her older brother Robert (Bob) contracted polio in 1942 she was 10 years old. Her younger brother Wayne was just five. She remembered Bob being very sick and in pain, she would rub his back until he went to sleep. When she got home from school the next day her Mom and Bob were gone. They had both gone to Denver by ambulance to Children’s Hospital.
Her Mom spent a lot of time in Denver with Bob while he recovered. Jean would not see or talk to her brother Bob for the next 10 – 1/2 months until he was well enough to come home.
Life was different for her then, more responsibility helping around the house, taking care of her brothers, and learning to milk a cow! “We were milking 11 cows and I helped my Dad milk. He gave me the easy milkers”. Her youngest brother Butch was born in December 1943 and was ‘A Blessing to All”!
After grade school in the country, she would join her older brother riding into town to attend Yuma High School. Her Mom always made lunch to send with them. She loved to play softball for the Geezy Queens as short-stop and 2nd base. She cruised “main street” on Saturday night with her friends. Jean worked part-time at Penny’s during her senior year in high school and stayed with friends In Yuma. After graduating high school in 1949, she decided it was time to move off the farm and into town. A small basement apartment with a new roommate and her small dog was a challenge. Jean worked at Safeway grocery store before getting hired at the Seedorf Chrysler Plymouth Garage and then at Farmer’s State Bank working with her good friend Ush. They kept in touch for over 60 years.
On April 18th, 1956, she was helping her best friend Donna pack to move to Denver. Donna double parked and Jean ran her letter into the Yuma Post Office. There stood Joe Shea mailing a payment on his new 1956 Ford Victoria. Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt Jean said, “Hi Joe! When did you get in town? “Just a little while ago” he replied. “Are you going to the dance tonight in Otis? Joe said, “ I didn’t know there was one”! Jean turned, half embarrassed, and ran back to the car and told Donna what she had done! Well… the hook was set! Joe was smitten! Later that afternoon Joe called to ask if he could take her to the dance. She said YES, but she had a waltz dance lesson on roller skates she had to go to first. Joe showed up with his own roller skates and was a very good skater! They drove to Otis and she was very surprised he was also a good dancer. Joe even said, “She fit just right”! It was an eventful evening and the start of a lifelong love affair. Six weeks later Joe proposed and after a short 6-month engagement they were married on January 19, 1957.
They first lived in small apartments of relatives’ homes in Denver until they found the perfect new home in Westminster, Colorado. It had a big yard on a nice quiet street, good neighbors, and a plot of ground where Joe could raise a big garden for a growing family. God blessed them with their first of 6 children, 4 boys, and 2 girls. Joe’s job with the railroad took him away for a day or two at a time. He often told Jean he needed someone, a partner, that could keep things going while he was on the road. She did that and so much more! Holy Trinity Catholic Church was a few blocks away and was the main reason Jean & Joe chose to live there. The new Church was a big part of their lives. Jean & Joe were the 77th family to join the parish and have been active members since. In 1966 Holy Trinity Catholic School opened and her children were among the first students. All six graduated from Holy Trinity School. The family celebrated all the sacraments there, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. Jean and Joe worked bingo on Saturday nights to help support the school and years later stepped in to help clean the school in the evenings.
Her youngest daughter Peggy had meningitis in 1969 and was in the hospital for a week. Jean stayed at her bedside and with help from family and friends kept things going back at home. She found time for several years to become an EMT and volunteer for the District 50 Rescue Unit, working part-time as a paid seamstress and caterer.
When Jean’s father-in-law passed away in 1973, it left her mother-in-law alone in a big house in Yuma, Jean and Joe welcomed her to come and live with them in their family home. For 7 1/2 years, great memories were made and shared with NINE around the dinner table. Grandma Shea would tell stories of her childhood and early years and recite poetry she learned as a teacher. Jean’s generous love and caring were demonstrated each day.
Family and friends were first and foremost for Jean. Helping a neighbor, a family member needing a place to recoup after an illness or surgery.
Through the ’70s & 80’s Jean volunteered as a foster mother through Catholic Charities to care for newborn babies, picking them up at the hospital, dressing them in clothes she had brought, and wrapping them in warm blankets for the trip back home. Joe would always meet her in the driveway to carry the little one inside. An Abundance of Love carried her through 12 years and 62 foster babies and gave these newborns a great start in life. Some stayed just a few hours, others several months before reaching their new parents and forever home. She helped the new parents feel comfortable in the challenging role and was always available for advice. Many stayed in touch as they grew, with cards, phone calls, and visits, and later with children of their own. One baby boy Tommy was with Jean for almost 6 months. Jean and Joe considered adopting Tom but agreed he needed younger parents. Today Tom still calls her Grandma and is a big part of her family.
Jean & Joe loved to take the whole family camping in the Colorado mountains. Great memories were made each year as the best part of their lives. She also loved traveling in the motorhome with Joe across the country, visiting friends and family, and competing in the Senior Games. Jean played on the Colorado Peaches Women’s Softball Team in the national games and Joe coached. During the tournament, Joe put Jean on third base. She questioned him “I’ve never played third base, Joe? He replied Honey you’re the only one who can make the throw to first base. They won the Gold Medal!
Above all Jean was a devoted wife to her beloved husband Joe Shea. Their marriage of 64 loving years was legendary. Jean loved being a mother, grandmother, and foster mother. Her loving, caring and generous personality was infectious as she raised her six children, David, Gary, Jim, Dennis, Diane, and Peggy. Jean welcomed with open arms Davette, Tony, Cindy, and Christina to her family. She was a loving and supportive grandmother to her 5 grandchildren, Caitlin, Kyle, Riley, Orion, Carson, and Tom. She proudly watched as they succeeded in life.
Our hearts are at peace because she is home in the loving arms of Joe.
Donations can be made in Jean Shea’s name to: Westminster Historical Society P.O. Box 492 Westminster, CO 80032-0492