Johanna Wagner Natkin (Jean), 1925 – 2005

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In Loving Memory, My Grandmother. She died three years ago this month. Shout-out to Ian for driving out to the memorial service, with friends, and lending me shoes to wear worthy of Grandma's approval.

"Do all the right things." — Jean Natkin

I'll try Grandma, I'm trying.

As my journalism career was half obituary writing, I was drafted to write this up 2005 March 1:

Wife, mother, teacher, community volunteer, and world traveler Johanna Wagner Natkin, known to friends and family as Jean, died Monday morning of heart failure, after having rallied four times in twenty-two years against breast cancer. The Wellfleet resident died peacefully in her sleep in the presence of family after having the day before greeted eight loved ones at her Hyannis hospital room and more by telephone. She was 79 years old.

Born June 4 in Frankfurt, Germany, the daughter of Richard and Franziska Wagner, she survived the Holocaust as a refugee in France from 1933 on and then Switzerland from 1938 on. She brought her husband and daughter to the United States in 1952, soon settling in Dudley, Massachusetts, where her second daughter was born. In 1998 she and her husband moved year-round to Wellfleet, where they had a second home since 1974 and hosted innumerable friends and family.

She attended Handelschule (technical high school) in Basel, earned a B.A. from Annhurst College, and an M.A. from UConn. She taught French and German for twelve years at Annhurst College and for two years was a counselor at the district court for alternate sentencing in Dudley. A lifetime member of Hadassah, she served as president of her local chapter for many years. She also was president of the Sons of Israel Auxiliary and a volunteer visitor for Am Hayam. She enjoyed theater, her book study group, and movie nights at Willy's Gym. A lifelong student of the world, she loved to learn about people and places by reading or visiting. In recent years she and her husband traveled in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Iceland, England, Ireland, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Panama, and Caribbean islands including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

She leaves her husband of 58 years, Alfred Natkin; her sister, Liesel Ruth Hocherman of Israel; two daughters, Evelyn Melançon and Judith Silverstone; five grandchildren, Jakob, Benjamin, and Daniel Melançon and David and Leah Silverstone; one great-grandson by Dan and Eva Melançon, Cassidy James; and extended family that includes Fresh Air children she and her daughters hosted over two generations. In lieu of flowers please consider donations to one or a few of the some 100 Jewish, Native American, African-American, Humanitarian, Nature, Wildlife, Civic, and Arts organizations Jean supported, including the Jewish Federation of Cape Cod, Care, the Heifer Project, Unicef, and Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.

Family and friends are invited to a memorial service Sunday, March 6th, 11:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon and celebration of Jean's life, at the Four-Points Sheraton, Route 6 West, Eastham.