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William Anderson
B: 1932-07-15
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Jaden Kaufman Everett
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B: 1927-11-08
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Obituary for Jacqueline Tucker (Wilms)

Jacqueline  Tucker (Wilms)
Jackie Tucker was like many women of her generation. She married, had three children, oversaw Girl Scout outings and volunteered at the girls’ elementary school.

Jackie Tucker was unlike so many others. She was the only mom in their Kirkwood neighborhood who went to work every day. She held a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Missouri and a master’s in adult education from Washington University. She managed a department at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kirkwood as director of education. She advocated for hospice care in the United States when it was little known or understood.

Great mom and wife. Great professional. She sought to thread the very tiny eye of that particular needle while chased by the demons of generational expectations and a difficult childhood.

Jacqueline Tucker died Friday, June 21, 2019 in her home. She was 79. She is survived by her husband, Tom; daughters Terri (Tom), Tracy (Wesley), and Trudy (John); sister Jan; grandchildren Zach (Madi), Tucker (Casey), Megan (Cole), Becca and Kristen; and great-granddaughter Éowyn. Memorial gifts may be made to the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, where her body was donated. Services will be held at a later date.

Jackie Wilms was born July 23, 1939. She grew up in a four-family flat filled with extended family. The Minnesota Avenue neighborhood of south St. Louis was filled with German immigrants. Her father would take the streetcar to his job at the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Her mother stayed at home with Jackie and her younger sister, Jan. She attended Cleveland High School, and later graduated from Kirkwood High School.

At Mizzou, where she was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, Jackie found her lifelong passions, earning a nursing degree and marrying a young ROTC student and rural Missourian, Tom Tucker.

They met on a blind date in the fall of 1958 for a movie and a visit to The Shack, the famous ramshackle restaurant across the street from the campus. (Tom had to bend to avoid the ceiling joists; though by no means short, Jackie had enough head room.) The date led to other dates. They wed on Nov. 28, 1960.

It was one dream come true as another, her nursing degree, was on hold. Jackie’s mom was hospitalized with melanoma. Jackie served as her mom’s private duty nurse from August until Daisy Wilms died, two weeks before the wedding.

By the following year, Jackie had her degree, baby Terri, and a job as public health nurse in Waynesville, Mo. She returned to Columbia for the ’63-64 school year — this time as teacher of operating room nursing.

Eventually, after a detour to Ste. Genevieve, the family — now grown to include Tracy and Trudy — would settle in a home in Kirkwood where they would live for five decades. Jackie returned to the workplace after the girls started school, first in nursing part time, then full-time as an instructor in St. Joseph’s Hospital department of education. She was the department’s director for 23 years.

Along the way, she eyed the needle: When Tracy joined the Brownies, Jackie found the time by splitting scout leader duties with a friend. “She tried to balance being Suzy Homemaker because other moms made her feel guilty for working,” Tracy said.

When the family made its annual trip to Bull Shoals Lake for spring break, Jackie would have the sandwiches packed and the station wagon loaded by the time Tom got home from work. The whole bunch sang along with Helen Reddy or Mac Davis. Clad in bandana and skorts, Jackie would inevitably pledge (and fail) to complete their taxes and to quit smoking while on vacation.

She wanted her girls to become strong, confident women. They would go to college. They would enter professions. Period. Then they could worry about men. (She wasn’t too pleased when Terri started going steady in high school, though Jackie never let on to that boy.)

She showed the girls what a professional could do.

In 1980, Jackie traveled to Sheffield, England to learn more about a radical new approach to care for terminal patients. It was called hospice, and the idea was to look to a dying person’s wellbeing rather than the antiseptic, clinical, unrealistic search for cures. This was just six years after the first hospice center in the United States was opened.

Jackie would return to advocate the holistic approach at St. Joseph’s and in the St. Louis region.

She had other passions. A good Agatha Christie mystery. Word games. Hiding the pickle ornament and never trimming the tree before the kids went to sleep on Christmas Eve. Using one term — “excuse me” — to take on infinite meanings with a tone of voice and ordering of face.

One by one, these things would be taken away by genetic bone disease and other illnesses, partly balanced by her rediscovery of a strong faith in Jesus.

It would be easy to remember Jackie for her pain. It was constant and decades-long. It could be controlled for a time but never tamed. She shrank before our eyes.

It would be easy, but wrong.

Jackie was devoted to her family and showed her love where and how she could, whether from mustering the courage to smile through the torment and sit for dinner with her loved ones or make online orders of Christmas gifts for the grandchildren, breaking the one-present family pact. When she could no longer navigate the deep sand beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she watched from house decks as her family played in the waves.

In the end, her life came full circle. Once her mother’s caregiver, now her daughters and husband cared for her. Once the champion for hospice, now a team of doctors and nurses and helpers worked to keep her comfortable at home.

She wasn’t alone as she threaded her last needle.

Services will be held later. Donations to MU Sinclair School of Nursing, https://nursing.missouri.edu/giving/how-to-donate/.
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