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Jean Helen Lynch, matriarch of newspaper family, dies at 89

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 | Posted by

By JEREMY HAY

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Jean Helen Lynch, matriarch of a longtime Sonoma newspaper family, died Aug. 8 at her home of more than 60 years. The cause was

Jean Helen Lynch

congestive heart failure. She was 89.

Lynch was a Jazz Age baby who spent her formative years in the Great Depression. She was born Nov. 11, 1921 in her grandmother’s home in the tiny Tulare County town of Lemon Cove to a butcher, A.E. Jack Allen, and Cecile Helen McKee Allen.

In the mid-1930’s, with the Depression at its peak, the Allen family moved to Sonoma. Her father opened a butcher shop in a Supermarket on Broadway and she worked across the street at a Rexall Drug Store.

Her memories of that era were of a community stretched thin that also pulled together, said her son, Bill Lynch

“She said, ‘It was hard, and we all had to struggle and we didn’t have much but most of us were getting by and helping each other out,’” he said.

Jean Allen graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 1939 and went on to attend Santa Rosa Junior College, working at the same time as a legal stenographer at the Sonoma law office of A.R. Grinstead.

At the junior college, she met the man who would become her husband, Robert Lynch. The couple married after her graduation, at Trinity Chapel in Sonoma.

During the war years, while her husband served with the Navy, she worked on the home front as a volunteer in efforts to support American troops.

Although Lynch never joined the staff of the newspaper her husband’s family had owned since 1884, the Sonoma Index-Tribune, her presence was felt there, said Bill Lynch, who is now the publisher.

“The fact that the family newspaper business was a part of our heritage she very much wanted to make sure that we did it right,” Lynch said.

“Her view and my dad’s view were pretty much on the same page, the purpose of our family newspaper was to serve Sonoma Valley and cover it better than any other medium that was out there,” he said.

Though she lived the then-traditional life of a stay-at-home mother, raising three sons, Lynch threw herself into the small but growing Sonoma community.

She was a PTA member, belonged to the Trinity Episcopal Church Altar Guild and was a secretary to the Sonoma County Grand Jury for two years.

“My mom was always so engaged with what was happening, she loved to make things happen, to help things get done,” said Bill Lynch.

In her forties, Jean Lynch was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, a test that illustrated her mettle. With the aid of radical surgery and heavy duty radiation treatments she recovered to live vigorously for nearly a half century.

“It was an ordeal but my mom was pretty tough,” said Bill Lynch, who noted that he consulted with his mother until her final days.

“I still used her as sounding board. I would go home and talk to her about what was going on at work and our challenges,” he said.

Her response echoed the resolute approach she took lifelong, he said: “Most of the time the advice was, ‘You’ve got to do what you have got to do, and you have to endure.’”

Joan Lynch was predeceased by her husband and her youngest son, John Patrick Lynch. Her survivors include her brother Jack E. Allen of Arroyo Grande and her son Jim Lynch, of Sonoma.

Services are today at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopoal Church, 275 E. Spain St., Sonoma.

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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