Jeanette Ernst

Born in Cedar Rapids, IA
Born on May 14, 1940
Departed on Mar 20, 2020

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2Timothy 4:7

Jeanette (Thorson) Ernst, 79, of Cedar Rapids, passed away peacefully on Friday, March 20, 2020 with her family by her side.  She was born May 14, 1940 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Theodore and Elsie (Brody) Thorson.  In 1958, she was in the first graduating class of Cedar Rapids Thomas Jefferson High School, where she met the love of her life, Jack Ernst.  She married Jack on June 9, 1962 and was blessed with 57 wonderful years of marriage, 3 children and 8 grandchildren.

She was a wife, mother and caretaker of those around her.  She worked at Armstrong’s Department Store, Linn Area Credit Union and ultimately retired as manager of Gateway Gardens Apartments.  Her life passion and purpose was helping the poor and needy.  Jeanette was the founder of Grateful Grannies, providing assistance to many homeless teens and needy children in the Cedar Rapids area.  She had an uncanny ability to connect with people, even strangers, in a deep and positive way.  In 2010, she was the “9 Who Cares Jefferson Award” finalist, representing Eastern Iowa in Washington D.C. for the prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award as a result of her public service work with the poor.  Then, in 2013 she was also inducted into the Thomas Jefferson High School Hall of Fame, also her charity work with Grateful Grannies.  Jeanette was active in St. Jude’s parish and volunteered with Hospice and at Mercy Hospital for many years.

Jeanette was a 27 year colon cancer survivor.  Although cancer ultimately claimed her life, she felt like she still won.  She was always positive and impacted and impacted so many by her will and quiet strength, despite her many physical health challenges.  Never saying “why me?” but instead saying “why not me?” and choosing not to go around mad or sad, but instead to go around living with the strength and courage that came from God and the people He put in her path.

She is survived by her husband, Jack; son John (Maureen) Ernst of Cedar Rapids; daughters, Joy (John) Fitzgerald of Dallas, TX and Sherry Pilarczyk of Cedar Rapids; sisters, Eleanor (Buford) Scott of Luling, TX and Chris (Al) Palmisciano of Pascoag, Rhode Island; and brother William (Myrna) Thorson of Wenatchee, Washington; grandchildren, Evan (Mindy) Ernst, Lillie Ernst, Ryan Fitzgerald, Brendan Fitzgerald, Jenna Fitzgerald, Daisy Pilarczyk, Mack Pilarczyk and Jamie Pilarczyk; a very special great-niece Stephanie (Clint) Fangman; numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.  She is preceded in death by her parents and brother, Theodore Thorson.

The family wishes to thank the many doctors, nurses and other health professionals for the loving care given to her over the years, especially those at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center and Mercy Medical Center. 

Memorial donations may be directed to “Grateful Grannies – Cedar Rapids Community School Foundation” at 2500 Edgewood Road NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52405 or the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center.

Services: Private. Burial will take place at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery. A Funeral Mass will be held at a later date. Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.