Obituaries

Devina "Jean" Rycroft

August 13, 1942 - March 12, 2024

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Obituary For Devina "Jean" Rycroft

The family of Devina Jean Rycroft is relieved to announce that she is no longer saddled with the pain and debilitating effects of Multiple System Atrophy. While this rare, cruel disease finally took her body on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at the age of 81 years, there was no “battle.” Jean faced MSA and its inevitable conclusion as she had met any challenge or opportunity in her life with grace, dignity, and incredible strength.

Jean was born at Johanna Haakstad’s Maternity Home in Sexsmith, AB on August 13, 1942, and was proud to be one of “Jo’s babies.” The eldest of George and Nan Fraser’s six children, she enjoyed more indoor pursuits (like reading magazines), while her younger siblings Don, John, Nancy, Betty and Margaret completed the grunt work on the farm at Kleskun Lake. She attended Mount Star School and her intelligence (not just for getting out of farm work) was evident when she skipped grade four.

In the fall of 1955, Jean transferred to Sexsmith School and soon caught the eye of a duck-tailed, leather jacket-wearing bad boy named Bob Rycroft. In no time he was making the trek to the farm to take Jean (and her three younger sisters) on dates. Although Bob had some “rough edges,” Jean saw potential in him and together they built a life filled with the busyness of raising four active kids, travelling and an incredible amount of community involvement and volunteer work.

Jean loved to write and we are blessed to have countless journals where she perfectly articulated her emotions around family and community events. Her talents and love for others created cherished, often embellished, wedding and birth announcements in the local newspaper and interviews with local pioneers. She also used her wit and humour to write skits, songs, poems and sometimes outlandish entertainment that she could somehow persuade others to perform.

Jean’s love for the history of the area and its people, combined with her talent for writing, led to the publishing of three books, including “The Teepee Creek Terror,” a history of the Teepee Creek Stampede and the gargantuan, “Wagon Trails Grown Over,” that tells the stories of the people, events and organizations that influenced the creation of her beloved Sexsmith. Her passion and hard work with the Sexsmith and District Museum Society have literally shaped the landscape of Sexsmith with the creation of the historic downtown area and the relocation and restoration of many local buildings, including the blacksmith shop. She also served on the board and was Chair of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, which is instrumental in allocating funds for projects to preserve history across the province.

Jean had a natural ability to connect with people and make them feel seen and heard. That gift became a powerful tool to make a positive difference in the lives of others and her community. Bringing people together to volunteer, championing causes she cared about and uplifting those around her brought her joy. She spent countless hours volunteering for organizations and serving on boards in Sexsmith. Her love of her community and a genuine interest in helping others became a paying gig when she became the first Family and Community Support Services worker in Sexsmith and then moved to the County of Grande Prairie to be the Director of FCSS.

Although Jean usually liked having the last word, she went ahead to allow her husband Bob time to catch up. Her “Bobby” didn’t leave her side, and it was fitting that he was holding her hand and kissing her forehead when she took her last breath.

Left behind to endeavour to continue her legacy are her children: Bob (Lynn) Rycroft, Kim (Parker) Shultz, Stacy (Lyman) Rorem and Jason (Shawna) Rycroft; grandchildren: Maison and Jordan Rycroft, Hayden and Milan Shultz, Devyn (John) Rorem-Colquhoun, Annika and Isabelle Rorem and Fraser and Marin Rycroft who can only aspire to be half as brilliant as their mother and grandmother described them to be. She also leaves brother John (Sandy) Fraser; sisters Nancy (Greg) Rycroft and Margaret Thibault; sisters-in-law Florence Badger and Leona Fraser; brother-in-law Brian Rogers; numerous nieces, nephews, friends and the countless people who were impacted by her kindness.

Waiting to greet her are parents George and Nan Fraser, brother Don Fraser, sister Betty Rogers, niece Tanya Fraser; brothers-in-law Frank Thibault and Ivan Badger, best friend Betty-Lou Feeney (who she missed terribly) and many friends and family.

There will be a Celebration for Devina Jean on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 1:00pm at the Sexsmith Civic Centre (9929 100 St.). Guests are invited to wear tartan to celebrate her pride in being Scottish and dress like they are coming to a tea party (perhaps with a big hat), or wear whatever they want to. Come prepared to laugh a lot, cry a little and honour this amazing lady.

A Livestream of the service will be accessible 15 minutes prior to the service on Jean Rycroft’s obituary on Oliver’s Funeral Home website.

The family would like to express their gratitude to the staff on the second floor of Building B at Prairie Lake. Jean was loved and cared for like she was part of their family and you will all forever be a part of ours. Thank you to all of the family and friends who visited and inquired about her health everywhere we went and have reached out to all of us since her passing. We have been overwhelmed by your love, kindness and support.

Donations in her memory can be made to the Sexsmith and District Museum Society (sexsmithmuseum.com/donate-1), Defeat MSA Canada: Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) (canadahelps.org/en/charities/defeat-msa-multiple-system-atrophy-canada/?version=2) or a charity of your choice. But more important than money, we would love for everyone to share Jean’s kindness. The world seems a bit dimmer this week, but you can brighten it and carry on Jean’s legacy by sharing one of her big smiles with those you meet. Watch eyes light up, like Jean’s, when you take a genuine interest in what they have to say. They say that grief is the last act of love we give to our loved ones, and with great love comes great pain. But with the pain of Jean’s loss comes gratitude for the gift of time we had with her. We are all better people because she loved us.

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Condolences

  • March 30, 2024

    Sending condolences to Kim and the Rycroft family. May memories of happy moments and special days lift you up in this time of grief.

  • March 29, 2024

    My memory of Jean . As a young hockey player in sexsmith with her so jason she was like the rink mom as Bob was the rink dad. She was such a smiley happy person that was so memorable in my life .I send my love to the family I'm truly sorry for the loss of a wonderful women wife and mother

  • March 20, 2024

    I wish I got to spend more time with her as an adult. I feel there was much wisdom she could have given me. In the times I did get to really spend time with her and know her as adult I was just always overwhelmed by her warmth and grace. She had such a biting wit and sense humor too. And what more can you want in another human being but to feel loved and to make you laugh. Though she spent her life in a small town in rural Alberta she had a worldly quality to her and had a curiosity that took her beyond what she could see. In that way she remind me very much of my mom (and her cousin), Helen. I am happy she got to meet my wife and one of my son's when my grandmother (her aunt), Anna passed away. She was such a wonderful hostess. She someone's whose company you could not easily leave. My condolences to all those who loved her. She will be missed dearly.

  • March 20, 2024

    I will always remember our Christmases up north and the occasional summer outings so fondly. Wonderful food and wonderful family, and lots and lots and love and laughter. Miss you, Auntie!

  • March 20, 2024

    Sorry to hear of Jean's passing. Our sincerest sympathy to all the family. She will be greatly missed, but the memories of her will last forever.

  • March 20, 2024

    Sending our love and condolences to the Family. Jean was a very special person and will be missed.

  • March 19, 2024

    I knew Jean when she was FCSS Director, she was always smiling, Jean was a gentle soul who loved her work which she did in such a caring and loving way. She was admired by many who came to know her and those who benefited from being touched by her in so many ways. Jean will be so missed by all of us. Rest In Peace Jean.

  • March 19, 2024

    Sending my condolences to the family, Jean will always be remembered as a wonderful neighbor Matthew and Livia Barnfield

  • March 19, 2024

    My deepest sympathy to all the family. During our time working together at the County of Grande Prairie I knew Jean to be a warm and caring professional with a great sense of humour and strength.

  • March 18, 2024

    Condolences to all the Rycroft and extended families. Jean was my first supervisor with County FCSS for a number of years back in the early '90's. Always approachable and always had a strong passion in making sure all County residents had the support services they needed. Take care to all.

  • March 18, 2024

    So sad to hear of Jean's passing. I got to know her through FCSS and Peace Library System connections. My condolences, especially to Bob and Lynn. She will be missed. 🙏🙏

  • March 18, 2024

    Bob & family along with John, Nancy & Margaret and families your dear Jean will be greatly missed by you all. She was such an inspiration to those that crossed her path. My Mom always loved her visits and her support in Royal Purple. Thinking of you all at this difficult time. Sincere condolences on your loss. Lynn Hyska ( nee Kirkham)

  • March 17, 2024

    I have two great memories I wanted to share. The first was that I didn't really get to know Jeannie (my mom's cousin) until my grandfather passed away. That was Jeannie's Uncle Bill, brother to her mom. During the reception after Grandpa's funeral, she had us in stitches, sharing stories about my mom's childhood, stories we hadn't heard before. My mom always had great things to say about Jeannie, and I got to know why at that time. My second story was from a few years ago when I visited the Provincial Archives with my husband and his kids. I decided to see if I could find out anything about my family while I was there, and I came across this book called "Wagon Trails Grown Over," so I took it out, and when I saw the name of the author and thought, what are the chances that's the Jeannie I know? I contacted my mom right away, and she said of course! Jeannie's kind of like the family historian. My heart was beaming with pride and excitement! Everyone knows what a wonderful lady she was, and she will live on in our stories and the way we love and care for others, I'm sure.

  • March 16, 2024

    Sincere sympathy to Bob and family in the loss of Jean. We thought a lot of her and always enjoyed our visits. She was smart, fun, and classy. Love Don and Kay Fraser and family

  • March 16, 2024

    We are thinking of all of you at this sad time, and sending our love and hugs. Jean was a remarkable woman, and even though we hadn't seen her since her health failed, she was still one of our very favorite people and we thought of her and all of you often. We hope you can find peace and comfort in your wonderful memories of her. With Love, Len & Myste Kruger

  • March 16, 2024

    So sorry to hear of the loss of Jean. She was such a beautiful person. Always put up with all of her extended family of kids. Sending all of you our hugs. Love James and Bonnie Christensen

  • March 15, 2024

    Sending love and hugs to all of the families. So sorry to hear of Jean's passing. May her memories comfort you and her words of wisdom remain with each one of you

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