Jeanne Therese Ciancanelli “My prayer to the world is to be kind to everyone—to always make someone smile.” And so she did, time and time again.
On an ordinary summer day, July 13, 2022, the not-so-ordinary Jeanne Ciancanelli decided it was time to make her exit. She hung up her coat to begin her third and final act. We, her biggest fans, are going to miss seeing her perform in the flesh, but as she always told us—“This body is just a blanket, my jacket—I’ll take it off someday, but my spirit will continue on…”
And live on it shall, in her five children, 11 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. And extended family, friends and everyones’ lives she touched with her magical aura.
Jeanne Ciancanelli’s first two acts were just as legendary as she was. Never one to miss a chance to sing one of her favorite tunes, (and there were many) You must have been a beautiful baby, You Are My Sunshine, Peachy Moon (a Jeanne original) and the list goes on. It was said, well, by Jeanne herself, that she was Shirley Temple’s understudy. A story her children, grandchildren —and even great grandchildren all excitedly shared at one point in their lives. After an unverifiable career as a child star’s stand-in; Jeanne became a Rock Artist. Not the kind in a band, but the one with a pencil in hand. She spent many years lending her artistic talents to designing headstones at Novelli’s Memorials. When she decided it was time to move on, she began her prison stint as the one and only “Granny Tough,” the moniker she was given by the inmates at Joliet Correctional Center—where she worked as the prison’s librarian. A career she thoroughly enjoyed, surrounded by one of her favorite things, books. Jeanne’s kindness knew no bounds—everyone was deserving of her sweet spirit. She earned their love and respect, and she was greatly admired by both the inmates and her colleagues.
Jeanne understood the true meaning of life; enjoying the passage of time with the people you love. She dedicated her life to quality time spent with her family and friends. Jeanne spent many years volunteering at the Bicentennial Park, making the best pasta every Wednesday and Sunday, and showering her family with her delicious home cooked meals nearly everyday of the week for the past 70 years. When asked why she still cooked supper every night she’d respond: “What can I say, I like my cooking!” She loved to feed people. And any child (big or small) enjoying a meal with Jeanne would be hand fed and sweetly coaxed to take, “just one more bite,” because it is “the best thing in the world for you.”
We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Jeanne during her 92 years, among them: Be kind to everyone—and never miss a chance to make someone smile. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all water under the bridge. If your food is hot, put some butter on it— it’ll cool off. Dusting brings no satisfaction—but washing dishes does. Kill the ANTS (automatic negative thoughts). Do nice things for people, it will make you happy. Learn to love your own company, you’ll never be alone. Each morning when you wake up, start the day by counting your blessings. Scrub clothing stains with a bar of Fels Naphtha soap before putting them in the warsh (never the wash)—it will remove any stain. Be content with what you have, and be genuinely happy for others. If the kids are screaming, fighting or throwing fits, you should be happy because that means they’re healthy! Housework can wait, the mess will be there when you return…go enjoy life!
Above all Jeanne had a unique gift. She had the ability to love anyone from the moment she met them— and it was genuine. She radiated a love so powerful anyone who stood in her presence felt it; leaving an imprint on the hearts of every person she met, and we’re all better because of her.
She is survived by her children and grandchildren who she said kept her young: Mike, Mark (children Adam and Rosie) Frank (wife Denise, children Gia and Jenna) Tim, Marylou (husband Tony, children Megan, Marie, Toni, Taylor and Jake); and greatgrandchildren, many nieces, nephews, friends and family too numerous to list, but not forgotten.
She is reunited with her loving son, Jeffrey Allen (children Eden and Lindsey), and grandson in-law, Joe Lafever, and is predeceased by her parents Joseph and Mary Scheffler, her siblings, Donald Scheffler, Marita Rohder, Rosemary Raub, and her favorite Sunday breakfast date—her beloved baby brother, Gerald Scheffler. As well as numerous friends.
And with that—as Jeanne always said, “I’m glad you got to see me!” So are we, Jeanne, Mom, Nana…so are we. Until we meet again.
Friends can visit Jeanne’s family as we celebrate her wonderful life at Blackburn-Giegerich-Sonntag Funeral Home on Sunday July 24 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm and at St. John’s Church on Monday, July 25 from 11:00am to 12:00pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 12:00 pm. Interment at St., John Cemetery.
Please wear the color lavender (if you have it), it’s her favorite.