Jean Rowe McFarland

1944 — 2009

by Patricia Nordby Hamrin

The Sunshine of Our Lives

The sun set unexpectedly early on Jean’s life, who passed away on Sunday March 29, 2009 at the age of 64. Jean was diagnosed with a rare cancer on March 6, 2009, and declined rapidly. Prior to diagnosis, she led a vibrant life in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband Jim, her church, and her professional work.

Jean was born June 14, 1944–Flag Day–in Menomonie, Wisconsin to Weldon and Lila Rowe, parents she revered and celebrated every day of their lives. When she was two years old she contracted polio and spent 22 months in the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For the rest of her life, she focused on exercise to optimize the injured muscles and endured three corrective surgeries, never complaining though it caused her difficulty and pain. One will never know if the struggle with polio made her strong, or if already-present strength is what helped her survive when others did not.

Jean’s love affair with her husband Jim began with a chance encounter. A neighbor called over the back hedge and suggested that Jean meet “the man who lived at the top of hill.” That man was Jim McFarland, and they married November 1, 1975. They always said they were meant to be together. With their three children and the beloved family dogs, Jean and Jim created a rich, memorable life of weekends and holidays at the cabin on Balsam Lake, and an abundance of love and laughter.

Jean began her education in a one-room schoolhouse in Wisconsin. Always striving to learn and grow, the world became her “schoolhouse” as she travelled to over 50 countries and worked strenuously to earn masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota while raising three rambunctious teenagers.

Jean’s professional passion was improving workplace cultures and productivity—whether it was through coaching ex patriots and their global employers or identifying and eradicating bullying behavior. Indeed, interest in Jean’s “Bad Apples in the Workplace” lectures spurred her on to publish a book in 2008: Bullies Among Us—What To Do When Work’s No Fun.

Jean’s personal passion was being outside, hiking, watching wildlife, and studying flowers.

She and Jim drove all over the western United States photographing nature; and she equally enjoyed every moment she was in her own backyard with the quail and hummingbirds.

But perhaps what people will remember most about Jean is the sunshine she seemed to have at her disposal. She was always smiling, always laughing, always reaching out a hand to congratulate or comfort. She was beautiful without vanity, accomplished without snobbery, and loved without condition. She was our sunshine.

Patricia Nordby Hamrin lives in Minneapolis.

See all articles by Patricia Nordby Hamrin