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At 98 years young, Mary “Jeane” Epps passed peacefully from this life into eternal life Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2022. Jeane was born July 2, 1924 to Kathryn (Adams) Pallage and Hank Pallage in Washburn, Wisconsin, and had one older brother, Casey. Jeane was 3 when her parents moved out West and finally settled in the Humbug gold mining community in Northern California, near Yreka. She and Casey attended their first 8 years of school in a one room schoolhouse in Humbug. Together, they rode their donkey, Annabelle, to school every day.
Jeane’s parents staked a placer gold mine claim and supplemented their income with gold nuggets they mined. At a very early age, Jeane caught “gold fever” and eventually staked her own mining claims in the Humbug area and enjoyed dredging and panning for gold for many years. She and Casey went 2 years to Yreka High School, and in 1940 her mother and father separated – Hank moved to Alaska and became a big game hunting guide, and Kathryn took the 2 kids back to Wisconsin to help Jeane’s grandparents on their dairy farm near Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Jeane and Casey graduated from Shell Lake High School in 1942. Jeane used to enjoy telling how, in her senior year, they started going to school on Saturdays so the boys could go to war and the girls could work in factories that supported the war effort.
Jeane met Don Engwer in Shell Lake and they married in 1944 while Don was still in the Army Air Corps. Don was a ball turret gunner on a B-17, and Jeane kept a news article for many years that tells the story of Don’s B-17 getting shot down by enemy fire, and ditching in the North Sea, killing 3 of their 10-man crew.
After the war, Don and Jeane moved to Chicago, Illinois, where they had their 2 children, Rich and Jan. They moved to Minnesota 2 years after Jan was born. They settled in Crystal, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Don became a painter and Jeane went to beauty school and eventually owned her own beauty shop, Forest Beauty Shop, in Crystal. A couple years later, Jeane and her only employee, Joan, leased the building next to the beauty shop and opened “The Malt Shop.”
In 1964, Don and Jeane divorced and Jeane, Rich and Jan moved out West. They settled in Santa Maria, California, where Jeane worked for Columbia Records. While working at Columbia Records, Jeane met Roy Orbison and country singer, Freddie Hart. In 1968, Jeane met and married Harold Epps and soon moved to the San Jose area where they bought a snack bar in a department store. They operated it for 4 years then decided to move to Yreka, California, where they bought and operated a pizza parlor. Jeane still had “gold fever” and it was during this time when she staked more claims in the Humbug area, and dredged and panned for gold whenever she could. She also climbed to the top of Mount Shasta, (14,179 feet) with one of her employees at Grape Stake Pizza.
Jeane and Harold divorced in 1984, and Jeane moved to Idaho in 1985 to be close to her daughter, Jan, and grandson, Johnny. She received her CNA (Certified Nurse’s Aid) Certificate from North Idaho College shortly after moving to Idaho and worked for numerous people in the Coeur d’Alene area as a caregiver in home health. When she finally retired, she bought a motor home and became a “snowbird.” She thoroughly enjoyed traveling south every winter with various friends from Canada, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and California. She also invested in a metal detector and enjoyed many hours metal detecting in Arizona and Oregon. She quit traveling south when she was 94.
Jeane moved into Bestland Senior Living apartments in 2018. She passed away at the Schneidmiller Hospice House in Coeur d’Alene.
Jeane is preceded in death by her parents, Kathryn and Hank, her brother, Casey, and one step-grandson, Kerry. She is survived by her son and daughter, Rich and Jan, Athol; grandson, Johnny (Debbie), Coeur d’Alene; granddaughter, Jeanette (Matt), Placerville, CA; great granddaughter, Savannah; great grandsons, Cameron, Landon and Max; step grandsons, Terry, Sagle; Todd (Lisa), Rathdrum; Scott (Denise), Las Vegas; 6 step great grandchildren, 8 step great great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Jeane loved life, cherished her family and friends, and had a wonderful sense of humor. In her golden years, you would rarely find Jeane without a deck of cards and a dish of vanilla ice cream.
A private gathering will be held in her honor at a later date.
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