Jeanne Ruth Ackley Lohmann

Artwork from Lohmann’s last published collection of poems, Autumn in the Fields of Language (Fithian Press, 2016). Friends Journal reviewed the publication in the March 2017 issue (link below).

Listen to Jeanne Lohmann read “What Comes Next” from the Feb. 2015 issue of Friends Journal.

Lohmann—Jeanne Ruth Ackley Lohmann, 93, on September 26, 2016, at home in Olympia, Wash., with family close by. Jeanne was born on May 9, 1923, in Arcanum, Ohio, the oldest of three children. She attended Otterbein College for a year studying French on a scholarship and graduated from Ohio State University in 1945 with a social sciences degree. During the summers she worked with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Lisle Fellowship, and the Stuyvesant Neighborhood House in New York City. After a year’s Danforth Graduate Fellowship at University of Kansas, she worked for three years in Chicago as executive director of the University YMCA.

She married Henry Lohmann in 1947, and in 1948 they went to Germany with the National Student YMCA-YWCA, helping to clear rubble in Bremen and working in a local hospital and kindergarten. After that they lived for ten years in Denver, Colo., where Hank worked for the National Farmers Union and as editor of the Colorado Labor Advocate. They helped found Mountain View Meeting, directed an Interns-in-Agriculture project for AFSC, and led Lisle Fellowship units. In 1960 they moved to San Francisco, Calif., for Hank’s work for Northern California Friends Committee on Legislation, joining San Francisco Meeting in 1961.

She earned a master’s from San Francisco State University in 1979, and her work in creative writing nourished her lifelong love of literature and encouraged her to follow her vocation as poet, editor, mentor, and workshop leader. After Hank died in 1985, she continued their commitment to service and their love for the arts, camping, and travel, going on a Quaker study tour to the Soviet Union, to writers’ conferences in Italy, and to workshops in the United States. In 1993, she moved to Olympia and transferred her membership to Olympia Meeting, often sharing poems that came to her in the silence.

Poets and writers gathered in her home, and she published ten volumes of poetry and several volumes of prose. In honor of her eightieth birthday, the San Francisco writers’ community established the Jeanne Lohmann Poetry Award, given each spring under the auspices of the Olympia Poetry Network. Friends in Olympia and elsewhere remember her poetry readings with appreciation and affection. Six of her poems are displayed in the woods and walkways of Providence St. Peter Hospital, and Garrison Keillor read two of her poems on The Writer’s Almanac. Her 2015 poem “Autumn in the Fields of Language” conveys both her vocation and the autumn of her life: “Without wind the yellow leaves / hang slack. Maple, elm and oak / lift torches to the blue of heaven. / A scarlet burning bush ignites the air. / Evergreens comfort the eye, / relief from all that fire and gold. / When my last warm season’s done / and time’s come to leave this world / of words, bright fields of language / where I play and sing, / let flame in me some final brilliant work / like autumn leaves in changing light. / May I rejoice in having had my say.”

Jeanne is survived by four children, Stephen Lohmann (Isabelle Tabacot), David Lohmann (Margaret), Karen Lohmann (Joe Tougas), and Brian Lohmann (Kathleen); nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to Olympia Meeting, the Olympia Poetry Network, Friendly Water for the World, AFSC, or a charity of your choice.


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