Our beloved mother, Jean Dell Bieler Hastings, passed away peacefully at her daughter Heidi’s home on December 23, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin at the age of 94. She was a loving and devoted mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and wife. She led a long, happy life, and will be greatly missed.
Jean was born on March 4, 1928 in Western Springs, Illinois. Her parents were Ellen Dell Bieler and Randolph Price Bieler. She is survived by daughters Heather Hastings Cassidy (Mark), Seattle, Washington and Heidi Hastings, Madison, Wisconsin. She was preceded in death by her husband Robert Hastings, (2018) and son Tom Hastings (2008), and sister Dorothy Bieler Barker ((2019). Her grandchildren include Rob Hastings, Ryan Hastings Cassidy (Sara), Eric Parfitt (Yang), David Parfitt (Ashley), Jenna Parfitt, and Lindsay Hastings. Great grandchildren include Mason Hastings (9), Lawson Hastings (7), Carter Hastings Cassidy (7), and Elise Parfitt (2).
Jean enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1945, where she met Robert Hastings of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jean was honored as a “Badger Beauty” in 1947. She graduated in 1949 with a degree in psychology and child development and married Bob on September 10, 1949 in Western Springs, Illinois. They had a long, happy marriage. Jean always said that Bob brought adventure into their lives.
Jean and Bob raised their three children in Kenosha until they moved to Madison in 1966. Outdoor fun was a family priority - sailing, water skiing and fishing in the summer, and skiing in the winter. Summer vacations were spent hiking at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Jean returned to the University of Wisconsin to earn both a Master’s Degree (1968) and a PhD in Education (1987). After teaching 5th and 6th grade at Gompers Elementary School for 4 years, she taught Elementary Science at UW, inspiring teachers to confidently teach science in their classrooms. In 1993, Jean established the Science Teacher’s Scholarship Fund at UW. She also served three year terms on the UW Board of Visitors for the School of Education, and the Board of the Friends of the UW Arboretum.
In retirement, Jean and Bob traveled extensively and enjoyed time at their winter home in Green Valley, Arizona, hiking, birding, taking classes, and hosting family and friends. They also spent time exploring their woodland acreage in Sauk County, and boating and fishing at their Little St. Germain Lake cottage. They were devoted grandparents and great-grandparents, and found great happiness in spending time with family.
After retiring, Jean started documenting her Dell grandparent’s adventures while homesteading in South Dakota in the 1880s. She researched census records and land transfers, found old family letters, and traveled to South Dakota several times with Bob. Jean published “Homesteading in South Dakota: 1883-1895 Elizabeth and George Dell” in 2005. The book has been shared with members of both the immediate family and Dell relatives. Later, a copy was put into the archives of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Not only has Jean’s book kept the family story alive, it has promoted new connections among four generations of Dell descendants; a Dell family reunion in Iowa in 2022; and the publishing of a children’s book about the family story. Jean was the last of her generation in the Dell family.
Up until near the end, Jean was engaged visiting with her daughters twice a day on the phone, reading the entire New York Times, following her grandchildren and great grandchildren with great interest, reading novels, and knitting.
Jean was a kind, gracious, optimistic, cheerful, intelligent, and beautiful woman who was an inspiration to her family and friends. She will not be forgotten.
A memorial service will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 S. Segoe Rd, Madison, on Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Jean will be laid to rest at Forest Hill Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider making donations to Covenant Presbyterian Church, Attic Angel Community, or Agrace Hospice Care.