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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2012

Jeane L. Barnum, 1920-2012: Adventurous woman was force behind aviation firm


Jeane L. Barnum, whose adventurous spirit rivaled the better-known derring-do of her aviator-businessman husband, died Thursday in her Waterville Township home. She was 91. Relatives said she had been in failing health.

"Her saying was, 'You rest, you rust,' " daughter Kathy said. "She was always on the go."

Her husband, Tony, owned Crow Aviation and made news flying all sorts of aircraft across continents and oceans in all conditions.

Mr. Barnum ran the business, but "my mom was the force behind the scenes, definitely," their daughter said. "Her formal role was to take care of the family when he was doing whatever he had to do to run Crow Inc."

"My mother was very self-sufficient. It was part of their routine: He would go off somewhere for months at a time and come home, and she'd greet him with a warm dinner, and it would be fine. She was his partner. They had a partnership," their daughter said.

The Barnums' son, Eric, is president and chief executive of Crow Executive Air, a successor firm.

Mrs. Barnum accompanied her husband on adventures when she could. They went helicopter skiing and skied glaciers. In the late 1960s, they flew a rare luxury aircraft to Europe and for six weeks transported actors during the making of a feature film.

Into her 60s, Mrs. Barnum went on organized bicycling trips to Idaho and British Columbia. She also went skydiving at that age "because my dad had never been skydiving," their daughter said. "So she wanted to do something he hadn't done. She was an adventurous girl herself. I think my mother, had she been a man, would have been just like him. She was strong. Feisty."

Said Phyllis Deaton, who with husband, Jerry, took flying lessons from Mr. Barnum, "I would call her a quiet force, very ladylike, very proper." The two couples quickly became friends. "She was comfortable anywhere -- at the Toledo Club with Fortune 500 owners, or at a campfire with Indians they just met," Mrs. Deaton said. "She was a joy to be around."

She was born in 1920 in Alpena, Mich., the daughter of Lillian and Elmer Lundquist. She was a graduate of Alpena High School. Her father, a banker, encouraged her to continue her education. She wanted to be a doctor.

"It being the era it was, her father thought she should be a secretary or nurse, so she took a lot of accounting classes," her daughter said. She attended Monmouth College in Illinois, where she and her future husband met. She was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a sorority founded at Monmouth.

Mr. Barnum became a Navy test pilot, stationed at Traverse City, Mich., during World War II. Afterward, they moved to Alpena, where he had aviation-related businesses and owned a potato chip company.

They moved to Toledo in 1951 when Mr. Barnum took a position with Walter R. Crow Inc. They later lived in Ottawa Hills.

Mrs. Barnum was well read and intellectually curious. She was a seamstress and gardener. She played contract bridge and entertained.

"She liked friends and making sure her children were the best-dressed, best-fed, educated people she could raise," her daughter said. "She always mastered what everyone took as an avocation."

Surviving are her husband, Leon E. "Tony" Barnum, whom she married June 26, 1943; daughters, Katherine Jones and Elizabeth Barnum; son, Eric Barnum; four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Services are to begin at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the family home in Waterville Township. Arrangements are by the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg. The family suggests tributes to Metroparks of the Toledo Area or a charity of the donor's choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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