Jeanne Jacobs is being remembered for her deep appreciation of people while also being a "force" in the family car business that was a fixture in Joliet for more than half a century.
Jacobs, wife of the late car dealer Bill Jacobs Sr., died Thursday in Joliet. She was 95.
Bill Jacobs Chevrolet opened in 1955 in Joliet and stayed in the family until it was sold in 2015.
"She never worked in the business, but it was very much her extended family," said Linda Jacobs, who heads the Bill Jacobs Auto Group today.
"She would stop in the dealership every day," Linda said of her mother-in-law. "She knew everybody who worked there from the sales department to the service department to used cars. She knew everybody's names, their children's names, and their birthdays, and she sent them all cards."
Linda said she never did know Jeanne's method for remembering names and dates other than "she was brilliant."
Jeanne had a master's degree in special education from the University of Mississippi, where she met William Jacobs Sr., an economics professor at the time..
Her own father also was in the car business. William Sr. joined him at a Chicago car dealership before acquiring the Chevrolet franchise in Joliet.
William "Trip" Jacobs III, one of the grandchildren involved in the Bill Jacobs Auto Group that has dealerships in Naperville and Hinsdale, described his grandmother as "a force" in the family business.
"She grew up in a car family, and she was married to a car dealer." Trip said, remembering his grandmother's regular calls to talk about the business. "The people were important to her. She would say, 'Grandfather always said business is about people.' To her, life was about people."
Longtime friend JoAnn Barber described Jeanne as "a warm and very generous person with everyone. She never forgot your birthday or special occasion. I have a caretaker now, and Jeanne would never forget her on her birthday and included her in her circle of friends. That's the kind of person she was."
Jeanne was active in several organizations, including what were then known as Women of Rotary and the Hospice Guild of Joliet. She served on the boards of Silver Cross Hospital and Lewis University.
Longtime friend Jeanette D'Arcy said Jeanne was part of a group called "the bag ladies" that would prepare bags of information to hang on front doors for political campaigns.
"One of her sayings was, 'Bless it, and release it," Jeanette said. "She meant don't worry about things."
Jeanne was preceded in death by her husband and three children: Michael; William, Jr. "Bill"; and Patricia "Jane."
She grew up in Memphis before moving to Chicago with her husband and then in 1954 to Joliet, where she spent the rest of her life.
"She was very connected to Joliet," Linda said. "She never would have left."