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March 5, 2021

2/5/2021 12:49:00 PM
Celebration of Life for Jean Hillesland held Feb. 13 online

Jean Elizabeth (Currier) Hillesland was born to Harold and Ruth (Haugen) Currier on April 13, 1928, in Danville. Jean, her sisters Iva Mae and Phyllis, and their brother, George, had a happy childhood. Their family lived in Hayfield, Mantorville, and Stewartville.
As a young woman, Jean was an avid student. She learned to sew from her mother. Jean dedicated a lot of her time to music, playing clarinet in band, learning piano, and singing in choir and small groups at school and church. She studied education at Winona State University and received a degree in elementary education. After moving back to Stewartville to begin teaching, she soon met Vern Hillesland, a fellow new teacher, and an abiding love grew between them that would sustain them through the rest of their days. They married on March 17, 1951. They built a beautiful home near the high school in 1957, and had two daughters, Wendy and Betsy. Jean transitioned from teacher to homemaker when Wendy was born, but continued subbing later on. Jean and Vern's house was a haven for friends and family.
The rhythm of the sewing machine kept time throughout Jean's life. She possessed a natural affinity for handiwork of all kinds and made countless brilliant pieces. Jean was known in her community for her gifts with needle and thread, and she created almost always for the purpose of giving away. She won blue ribbons at the county fair, created beautiful quilts, clothed her children and grandchildren, made banners for church, and made flawless hardanger. The beauty of her work, the shrewdness of her skill, and the way she used her gifts to clothe and warm the people around her cannot be adequately summed or recounted.
In duet with the rhythm of sewing was the song in Jean's heart. She was musical from a young age, learning piano and clarinet and singing in school and church. She later was a founding member of the Stewartville Community Band and played with them for 25 years. She sang in the adult choir at Zion Lutheran Church for 40 years. She taught her daughters to sing, and they eventually shared this song with their children. Jean had a characterful, rich alto voice that was unmistakable. Even in her final days she was still singing, recalling hymns while family was at her bedside and finding strength to sing high notes on "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling," even when her breath was heavily labored and nearly gone.
The love of God played a significant role in Jean's life. She read devotionals and scripture daily and attended worship frequently. She knew well the saving promises of God in Christ for her, and rejoiced in praising her Maker in gifts, in voice, and in the melody of living.
Jean's practical, uncomplicated approach to life made her a wise and reliable person. She was a friend to many in her community. Wherever she found herself, Jean had an outward attention to the goodness around her. She was optimistic and, especially in difficult times, found words for the good and always kept a seed of hope alive.
Jean and Vern moved to Ingleside Communities in Mount Horeb, Wis., for their final few years. She received incredible care and attention from the providers at Ingleside and Inglehaven. Her great-grandchildren lived close and became profound bright lights in her life as the end came. She no doubt could see the future in their happiness and delight.
Jean entered hospice the day before Vern's memorial service in January. Her final days were filled with family at her side, making memories and singing and saying goodbye. To the very end Jean maintained an inclination to "keep trucking," to staying positive, recalling God's promises as death neared and using her scant breath to make certain her family knew how much she loved them. She died peacefully in the dim morning light on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.
Jean was preceded in death by her parents, Ruth and Harold; her older sister, Iva Mae Stee; her husband of 69 years, Lavern; and her oldest daughter, Wendy Coe.
She is survived by her two younger siblings, Phyllis Deer and George (Jean) Currier; her youngest daughter, Betsy (Jerry) Busch; her son-in-law, David Coe; her three grandchildren, Shannon (Jon) Plichta, Robbie (Amber) Coe and Zach Busch; four great-granddaughters, Evelyn Jean and Charlotte Rose Plichta and Lyla Jean and Brynlee Rae Coe; and many beloved relatives and friends.
Due to the pandemic, a celebration of life will be held online via Zoom on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, at 1 p.m. Find the livestream at
Memorials can be mailed to Betsy Busch, 207 Highland Drive, Decorah, IA 52101, and will be used to furnish a piece of art for Ingleside Communities. Online condolences may be made at Gunderson East Funeral & Cremation Care is assisting the family with arrangements.

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