Longest-serving Arcata first lady Jean Marian Schussman Falor passed away peacefully on December 11, 2019 surrounded by loved ones.
Jean was born on February 3, 1923 in Kaukauana, Wisconsin to Henrietta Harrison Brigham Schussman and Leo George Schussman. Jean moved with her family to Arcata when she was 1.5 years old when her father was invited to teach at Humboldt State Normal School (now Humboldt State University).
As a child, Jean was blessed to have as her best friend, Helen Arnold Stover, a friendship that lasted 94 years until Helen’s death. Music was a big part of their lives and friendship. Helen, and Jean were in band and orchestra while at Arcata High. Helen played bassoon, while Jean played the double belled euphonium and the cello. The band took an annual trip to San Francisco bay area at the end of the year, and one year, this included being invited and playing at the dedication of the Golden Gate Bridge (this was an honor because not all local school bands were invited to march and play). Jean also played a solo (from the Barber of Seville) in a music competition in San Francisco.
At Arcata High, Jean and Helen were members of the Girl’s Athletic Association (which required three first teams or 400 points for admission), Choir, yearbook staff, student council and Latin Club. Jean was on the championship volley ball team in 1939. Helen and Jean were also on the speed ball team that was victorious in the final game of a series of inter-class speed ball contests!
While in high school, Helen and Jean were also in a band that played for local dances. Jean learned to play the stand up base to round out Helen’s piano, Marlan Stover’s sax, and another member’s talents. Ruth Carroll got this band together and would transport the band to “gigs” in her very small Ford. Jean, Marlan and the string base were relegated to the back seat and it made for a very tight fit!
Each year, from the seniors at Arcata High, four students would be selected (two boys and two girls) to vie for the then Tiger Sweater. Jean and Helen were selected for their senior year. These students would have the highest grade point average, have participated in sports, and extra curricular activities. Jean did not care if she won or not, because if she did not win that meant that Helen did! Helen was selected to receive the Tiger Sweater and Jean, the Tiger A.
Jean’s senior yearbook quote was “From a little spark may burst a mighty flame,” which prophesied the contribution Jean and her husband Ward would have on our community.
In May of 1939, both Helen and Jean won voice scholarships to Humboldt State where they both were to matriculate.
Helen and Jean would also sing to provide entertainment for women’s club meetings. One such meeting was to take place in old town Eureka. When they arrived with their male piano accompanist, Helen started up the stairs where she assumed the meeting would be taking place, but an animated accompanist stopped her abruptly because red light district activities were practiced upstairs. The thought of Helen almost barging in upstairs got the girls to giggling. Helen and Jean composed themselves and were ready they thought to sing, but the piano was so out of tune, and the final two notes of the lead in so sour that it got the girls to giggling again each time the two sour notes would resonate. Needless to say, there was no entertainment to be had that day, and decades later when the two told the story, they still started to giggle at the remembrance!
It was thanks to Helen that Jean met the love of her life, Ward E. Falor. Helen was the Choir Mistress of the Arcata Methodist Church Choir and Jean joined to help Helen out. Helen produced an Easter Medley and in it Helen had Jean singing Rejoice Greatly, Oh Daughter’s of Zion. The production was such a hit that Jean and Helen were invited to perform (Helen on the piano and Jean singing) at an after Easter program at a Eureka Methodist Church. In attendance at this performance was Ward Falor who was quite taken with Jean. When the two subsequently met on October 4, 1940, at a Music Club party at Redwood Park in Arcata (after which Ward gave Jean a ride home in his ‘36 maroon Chevy), the two stared a relationship that turned into a 63 year marriage!
During World War II, Jean and Ward worked at North American Aviation. Jean worked building B-25 Mitchel Bombers, and P-51 Mustang Fighters, while Ward served as a flight mechanic and gunnery tester. From 1945-1947, Jean was parted from Ward while he was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Army Air Corps, until he was discharged with a service disability after surviving a plane crash in Japan.
Jean received her teaching degree from Humboldt (1939 - 1946 with a wartime break), and taught kindergarten in the Eureka, California ( although to be closer to Ward who was the first to work at North American Aviation, Jean attended U.C. Santa Barbara for some of her education (1942)).
After the end of the war, Jean and Ward moved to San Francisco, California for Ward to study to become pharmacist at University of California School of Pharmacy. After pharmacy school, from 1951-1953, Jean and Ward lived in the Bay Area until the North Town Merchant Association of Arcata, California, invited Ward and Jean to open a pharmacy in North Town Arcata which they did in March of 1953 (Falor’s Pharmacy which had the first drive up pharmacy window and 24 hour prescription service), followed by Villa Pharmacy in McKinleyville, Buxton’s Drug’s (Eureka), and Arcata Family Drugs.
Jean is the longest serving first lady of Arcata, California while Ward was Mayor from 1962 to 1964, and 1966 to 1970. Jean also supported Ward during his many efforts to better their community (Arcata Harbor, first Chairman of LAFCo, new water system for Arcata, Vice Chairman of Humboldt Bay Commission, retention by the City of the Jacoby Creek Watershed, member of the California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission, and bringing the Arcata Pool and Mad River Hospital into existence). Jean’s love of sports continued after her time at Arcata High, with Jean water skiing (even from a “dry start” with an assist from a willow branch, while 7 months pregnant with Tammy in 1959!), snow skiing (learned on the bunny slope at Horse Mountain with Kitty and Tammy), and boating (both sail and motorized, although racing was reserved for their special order double cockpit / double masted ketch). Jean also was a reluctant horsewoman when Tammy and Kitty were growing up on their horses.
Continuing from her childhood experiences with Dr. Fountain’s family at the Schussman cabin in Big Lagoon, Ward and Jean acquired their own cabin, and taught their children to water skii and hunt for agates there.
Jean was preceded in death by her beloved husband Arcata Mayor Ward E. Falor, her first born son, Burke Falor, her parents, her brother and sister-in-law Myron and June Schussman.
Jean is survived by her children: Ward Michael Falor; June Falor Lantheaume (Mike Lantheaume); Kathryn Falor Wethey (Jack Wethey); and Tamara C. Falor (Mike Dolf). Surviving grandchildren are: Aileen Kuttler (Kyle Kuttler); Mike May (Brenda May); Constance Jackson; Milo Falor (Carrie Foust Falor); Tina Lantheaume Jackson; Tammy Cardwell (Robert Cardwell); Nicholas Winston Villalobos Falor; Breanna Wethey; and Cole Wethey (Kenzie Smith). Surviving Great Grandchildren are: Zachary Stewart (Becca Stewart); Michaela May; Willa Jackson; Dylan Cardwell; and Alayna Cardwell. Jean is also survived by her brother Strib Schussman and his wife (Sharon) and numerous nieces and nephews and their offspring.
A memorial mass will he held at 11 a.m. on February 15, 2020 at St. Mary’s Church in Arcata, California with a Celebration of the lives of Jean and Ward Falor following (around 12 p.m.) at St. Mary’s Leavey Hall.
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