Jeannette Dumais, 77, a longtime resident of Danville, died after a sudden illness on Feb. 19, 2013, surrounded by friends and family.
Known as “Dumey” to her friends, Jeannette lived in Danville for more than 40 years and worked at Hyster for nearly 30. In 1998, when Hyster relocated, she went to work at SEN-MAIL, a Danville direct-mail company founded by Jan Gudauskas, one of her Hyster friends. By 2005, she was devoting more time to antique hunting and selling on eBay.
Born Aug. 22, 1935, in Aurora, Jeannette was the daughter of dairy farmers Aloysius and Mary Horejs Penzenstadler.
She grew with her sisters, Joan and Mary Lou, on Fitchome Farms in Aurora and on Kam Lake Farm near Gilman, which later became the Heartland Spa. She graduated from St. Patrick’s High School in Kankakee in 1953 and was looking forward to the 60th reunion.
Jeannette was briefly married to the late Donald Dumais in St. Anne in the 1960s.
In 1972, she moved to Danville to work at Hyster, where she advanced through the ranks and was one of the first women to attain management level, first as dealer contact and finally as government contract manager. There she formed many close friendships, including Ellen Hurley George, Mary Norenberg and Jan Gudauskas, a group that often met for dinner and wine at what they called their “Hyster Board Meetings.”
Jeannette was an expert seamstress and knitter, creating intricate clothing for her friends. She enjoyed working out and was proud of her endurance, walking the neighborhood dogs two miles at a time. She was a pit bull rescue advocate and loved shows like “The Dog Whisperer.”
Jeannette collected antiques and Czechoslovakian glassware in honor of her mother’s Bohemian roots. She used her nose for vintage goods to work on props and furnishing for the Red Mask Players during the 1980s and to find locations and props for a History Channel special filmed in Danville in 2003. It was this passion that led her to approach the owner of Judd’s Auction House shortly before it opened in 2005 and volunteer to “help and do anything necessary for a woman to succeed in business,” her friend Marilee Judd recalls. Jeanette worked steadily at the auction house, hunting and rehabbing antiques until the month before her death.
Jeannette was hospitalized in February with sudden onset ALS and endured a brief debilitation with equanimity. She was loyally supported during her illness by her friends.
A memorial gathering will take place from 2-4 p.m. March 9, at Judd’s Auction House, 812 N. Vermilion St.
She is survived by her sister Joan E. Penzenstadler, of Austin, Texas; her nieces, Marcy Marzuki, of Park Forest, and Frieda Gress, of Elgin, Texas; a nephew, Bernard Gress, of Washington, D.C.; numerous loyal friends; and a dog that was briefly hers, a 4-year-old pit bull named Cautious. Jeannette was preceded in death by her parents; and sister Mary Lou Marzuki, of Park Forest.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Danville YWCA women’s shelter or the Citizens for Animal Rescue and Adoption in Tilton.