Our beloved wife, mother and grandmother M. Jean Middleton, 76, of Sunnyside passed away on Thursday, April 19, 2012, at home in Sunnyside surrounded by her family.

Jean was born Nov. 7, 1935 in Grand Forks, N.D., the second of three children to Kenneth and Effie Leiberg.

Jean was raised in Manvel, N.D., where she attended public school. She graduated along with five other seniors from Manvel High School in 1953. Jean then attended and graduated from Aakers Business College in Grand Forks. After graduating she went to work for the Grand Forks Herald newspaper.

On Aug. 9, 1956 she married fellow Manvel native Leon J. "Jack" Middleton in Grand Forks, after his service in the U.S. Navy. They started their family while Jack attended the University of North Dakota. At Jack's graduation, Jean was awarded a PHTC (Putting Husband Through College) degree from UND.

After graduating from UND, Jack received an offer to teach sixth grade for the Sunnyside School District, so they loaded up the car, trailer and family and headed west, arriving in Sunnyside in 1960.

Jean worked a day care out of the house for her first few years in Sunnyside before going to work for the school district herself, working as secretary for the school district audio/visual department for the next 25 years, retiring in 1988.

After retirement, Jean loved to spend many hours and traveled many miles keeping up with the grandkids, attending countless football, basketball, baseball, soccer games, wrestling matches, school band concerts and many other school functions.

She was flawless with dates and never missed a family member's birthday. Among her greatest joys were vacations she and Jack took to visit her sister, Katherine, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jean loved the beauty of Colorado and never grew tired of the many hours spent hanging out with her sister and family and the many trips they made to Pike's Peak, Denver and her favorite place of all, Cripple Creek.

Jean had the misfortune of being struck with heart disease while still young. She battled the disease until her heart could no longer keep up the fight. She was then placed on a list to receive a new heart and in October of 1988, she became the 41st patient to receive a new heart at the University of Washington Medical Center. She never lost sight of the privilege and blessing given to her for her second chance at life.

She was a dedicated supporter of organ donation and attended monthly organ transplant support group meetings during which she made many friends and was a model for those who were waiting to receive donated organs.

The 1990 graduating class of Sunnyside High School donated money from a fundraiser to the American Heart Association in her honor.

Jean was a 52-year member of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, where she taught Sunday school in the early years and was a member of the church women's group. The church on the hill has been family to her since she arrived in town and there is no other place in the world she would rather have everyone gather to say goodbye to her. She was also a member of the Novella Club and is an original auxiliary member of the American Legion Club in Manvel, a membership she kept uninterrupted for 55 years.

She was a relentless fan of Norman Rockwell and was the envy of the neighborhood for her ability to decorate both inside and outside the house for every holiday and event such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Halloween.

Jean is survived by her husband of 56 years, Jack. at home in Sunnyside; daughter, Joan Hamilton and granddaughter, Heather Hamilton of Snohomish; son, Jeff (Janet) of Wenatchee; grandson, Gavin of Brownwood, Texas, grandson, Jordan of Wenatchee, stepgrandson, Christopher "CJ" (Megan) Sanborn of Bellingham and stepgranddaughter, Sarah Sanborn, Seattle; son, Bill (Alison), and grandson, Christopher and granddaughter, Nicole of Yakima.

She was preceded in death by her parents; brother, Maurice; and sister, Katherine.

The family would like to give special thanks to Dr. Daniel Fishbein MD of UW Medical Center, Dr. Duane Monick MD and Lisa Apple, RN of Yakima Heart Center. Your skills, dedication and compassion gave us 23 years with her, we otherwise would not have had.

She always cared more about how we were doing than herself. She had a strength most of us can only dream of. We will always take great comfort from how blessed we were to have her as our wife, mother and grandmother. Those of you that knew her were also very lucky people.

Viewing and visitation for Jean will be held Friday, April 27, 2012, from 1 to 8 p.m. at Smith Funeral Home in Sunnyside. Graveside services will be held Saturday, April 28, 2012, at 10 a.m. at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens in Sunnyside, with a memorial service to follow at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, at 11:30 a.m., with a reception to follow at the church.

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to make a donation in Jean's name may do so to Lower Valley Hospice.

Smith Funeral Home LTD and Crematory in Sunnyside is in charge of arrangements.


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