Jean Carter, age 85, formerly of Des Moines, IA, passed away on June 20, 2014 at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates, IL. Born on July 24, 1928 in Capps, Arkansas to the late Clive and Erbie Robinson Wilson; she was named Lela Imogene. She would ultimately learn to appreciate the versatility and beauty of her name and share it with the world in a variety of ways. She was the second of four children (Cleo, Lela, Zella Fae & Anna Mae) born to the couple and would soon begin the work that she would become famous for. During the Depression Era to allow their father the opportunity to work and provide for the family the two eldest siblings cared for the two youngest. Thus her earliest experiences of care-giving and child care began while she herself was still a child.

Known to her Ozark family and friends as “Imogene” she loved art, nature, hunting and sports. She played basketball for the Parthenon Panthers of Parthenon High in Parthenon, Arkansas, where she is said to have played in a game in which she broke her leg but refused to come out until she realized she could no longer move it. A natural beauty famous for her long auburn hair, she won the Newton County Fair Beauty Contest in Newton County Arkansas the same year of her high school graduation, 1944. She married her high school sweetheart, Billy Carter, and shortly thereafter the couple relocated to Des Moines, IA. There she became known as “Jean” and attended beauty school at the Americana Academy of Beauty in Des Moines, IA. where she would work for many years. Billy went off to war and would later return to the Ozarks but Jean was just getting started. She remained “up North” and continued raising her only son, Rick, while becoming more involved in her new home-town of Des Moines. She converted to the Catholic faith in the late 1960’s and was an active member of St. John’s Catholic Church (now the Basilica of St. John). She was most happy with her 30 plus years working in the Day Care Nursery at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, IA. She flourished there making many friends among the parents of her charges and creating some life-long relationships with parents and their children that long transcended her retirement in 1993. She never stopped learning, taking full advantage of the adult education course offered through the hospital. She had enough credits and certifications to consider pursuing a nursing career but that would have forced her to step away from her purest gift and greatest passion, the nurturing of and caring for the youngest among us. In 2012 she moved to Oak Park, IL to be closer to her son and granddaughter after being diagnosed with dementia and had most recently been a resident of the Lexington Health Care facility in Streamwood, IL. where she continued her long tradition of enjoying life through art, music, nature, sports, family and friends.

Jean was the loving mother of Rick Carter of Oak Park, IL; cherished grandmother of Brooke Carter also of Oak Park, IL. She was the dear sister of Cleo (Gleema) Wilson of Independence, MO, Zella (the late James) Hudson of Peoria, IL and Anna Mae (the late Thomas) Reynolds of Harrison, Arkansas. She also leaves behind many caring nieces, nephews, cousins and friends as well as several “adopted children” from her long and happy career in child care. A Memorial Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 25, 2014 at St. Catherine of Siena / St. Lucy Church, 38 N. Austin Blvd., Oak Park. Interment is private. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Basilica of St. John, Des Moines, IA., are welcome & appreciated. Information regarding donations may be found via their web site

Join the discussion on social media!