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The Picher, Okla., native was born Nov. 03, 1923, to Vera and Luther McFall. After graduating Commerce High School in 1941, she attended Northeast Oklahoma College and later transferred to what was then Oklahoma A&M, in Stillwater, where she earned a bachelor's degree and also met Richard "Dick" Watkins.
At that time, the military was stirring people around the country because of World War II and the Army sent him to Oklahoma for training. The war, and its end, also kept their early married life and her career unsettled for a time. However, after stints in Tulsa with an oil company and Baton Rouge, La., teaching math at Louisiana State University, they moved to Columbus with his job in 1950. For years, she concentrated on raising her family and she and Dick helped found St. Rose School. As her children matured, Jean decided to go back to teaching in the early 1960s, starting in small schools around Cherokee County and eventually being hired to teach math at Columbus Unified High School. She taught there from 1966 until 1988. During this time she finished her Master's Degree in Mathematics from Pittsburg State University. She continued to substitute after retiring and kept her license until 2000.
Her love of math and teaching was obvious in the pride she took in her high school math teams' success in regional competition, and in the calculus formulas she was scribbling on the papers she would handle.
Raised a Methodist, Jean converted to Catholicism when she first married and was a lay-reader, sang in the choir and played organ for St. Rose Church, in Columbus.
After Dick died in 2004, Jean and Ted Simkin, who had known each other for years, realized their similarities during charity work with his church and that they would be better together than apart. They were married in 2006 and had nine wonderful years together.
She was preceded in death by both her husbands; three grandchildren, D.J. Stark, Joe Watkins and Crystal Pack; her parents and her sister, Peggy Ralph, of Commerce, Okla.
Survivors include her children, Ann and Kim Banks, of Joplin, Pat Watkins and Jan Williams, of Midway, Ga., Jim and Rose Watkins, of Columbus, and Mike and Lauri Watkins, of Bartlesville, Okla.; stepchildren, Martha Wells-Smith and Scott Smith, of Fort Scott, Thomas and Marsha Simkin, of Joplin, and Curtis and Debra Simkin, of Tulsa; grandchildren, Noah Watkins, of Santa Cruz, Calif., Seth Fletcher and wife, Leigh Garrison-Fletcher, of Croton on Hudson, N.Y., Luke Fletcher, of Columbia, Mo., Richard Watkins, of Gainesville, Fla., Cecil and Lisa Low, of West Mineral, Rick and Sarah Stark, of Columbus, Jennifer Kindred and Scott Colgan, of Los Gatos, Calif., Kim Kindred and Russ Walkup, of Portland, Ore., and Kelia Kindred, of Bartlesville; step-grandchildren, Grant Wells, Jason Simkin, Sarah Dale, Carla Bloomer and Erica and Shelby Simkin; and 19 great- and step-great-grandchildren.
Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the Mother of God Catholic Church, in Oswego, Kan., with Fr. Larry Parker officiating. Burial will follow at the Park Cemetery, in Columbus. Family will receive friends from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Bath-Naylor Funeral Home, in Columbus. Friends may call after 1 p.m. Thursday.
In lieu of flowers, the family ask expressions of sympathy to be in the form of memorials to the Methodist Church Food Pantry. Friends may drop off or mail memorials to the Bath-Naylor Funeral Home, 611 South East Avenue, Columbus, KS 66725.
Email condolences may be left at www.bathnaylor.com.
Arrangements and services are under the direction of Bath-Naylor Funeral Home of Columbus.
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