With faith as her guide, Mary Ann Jent lived her life to love others. No matter where she was, it was impossible not to see the love that emanated from her every fiber as an outpouring of the Catholic faith that was such a cornerstone throughout her entire life. Mary Ann touched the hearts and lives of not only the family she adored, but also so many within her community through her work as a teacher’s aid for 34 years. She was dedicated to caring for her children and grandchildren, who have now become her greatest legacy.
Although the Great Depression hit many families hard during the 1930s, John and Clara (Herz) Rutkowski of Milwaukee, Wisconsin were blessed with many gifts. The couple first met in the hospital, where they both had a daughter recovering. John was a widower with 6 children, and Clara was a widow with 4 children, making for a large blended family when they were wed. Soon after, the couple delighted in welcoming the birth of their first child together, daughter Mary Ann, on September 16, 1934. After the arrival of 2 more children, the Rutkowski family was a busy household of 13 children.
Mary Ann’s childhood was typical for the times. The economics of the day were tough on everyone, especially a family of 15. That meant hand-me-down clothes and few material things, but the Rutkowski family was close-knit and held fast with things money couldn’t buy. Mary Ann grew up on the south side of Milwaukee in their family home at 28th Street and Mitchell Street. To bring in some extra money, Mary Ann’s mother often had her stand on the street corner on Saturdays, selling the weekly bus pass to someone who was going out on the town. Mary Ann was especially close to her father; he always had a listening ear for her and helped her with her homework. She was truly heartbroken when he died when she was 20.
Mary Ann received her education in the area schools, and graduated in 1952. She had been raised a devout Catholic, so it wasn’t unusual that she entered the convent to become a nun after high school. However, after 3 years, Mary Ann suffered with some physical issues and her superiors felt that God had another plan for her, outside of the convent.
In early 1956, Mary Ann’s life did take a new direction when she went on a blind date with Cleetice Jent. When he came to pick her up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Mary Ann had second thoughts because motorcycles were not safe. Her sister, Cecile, took a ride first, showing her it was safe, and as they say, the rest is history. The two fell in love, so much so, Cleetice converted from Baptist to the Catholic faith for Mary Ann, and they were happily married on December 29, 1956, in the Gesu Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, their wedding night didn’t really go as they hoped since they slept in the same room as Cleetice’s mother.
Mary Ann and Cleetice settled into married life together in a home on the east side of Milwaukee on Van Buren Street. To provide for his new bride, Cleetice worked for a commercial window cleaning company. It wasn’t long before the couple filled their hearts and home with the joy and laughter of 6 children: Patricia (1957), Michael (1958), Joseph (1959), Daniel (1962), Judy (1965), and Tom (1967). For Mary Ann, family was her first priority, and she always exemplified all the wonderful things a mother should be. She was patient, caring, and generous with her time, yet stern with discipline, wanting them to make good choices in their lives. Mary Ann didn’t hesitate to reprimand her kids in front of their friends either – she would say, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will show you what you are.” Instilling her deep faith in God in her children was also important, and they attended church as a family.
Besides being a devoted wife and mother, Mary Ann began working as a teacher’s aid at Cass Street School in the Milwaukee Public Schools in 1971. She shared her tremendous capacity to love with the children here for 34 years, teaching multiple generations of families.
Mary Ann’s life took a drastic turn on November 1, 1990, when her husband Cleetice was injured in an accident at work when he fell off a scaffold. He suffered a brain injury, which required 2 surgeries, and a long hard road of therapy. Cleetice had to relearn many things, but he had the best care possible with Mary Ann by his side every step of the way. They enjoyed their time together, playing cards, taking leisure walks and vacationing with their daughter, Patricia, and her husband, Peter. During this time, Mary Ann retired from the school in December 2005, and devoted all of her time to her husband. Sadly, however, Cleetice died on July 7, 2006, leaving Mary Ann without him by her side after almost 50 years together. She felt alone at times, though her loneliness was erased when her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would come to visit and celebrate special occasions with her. Mary Ann’s happiest moments undoubtedly always involved the time she spent with her precious grandchildren. With a love for animals, Mary Ann has had several dogs over the years that she numbered in her family, and loved.
Mary Ann loved to sing especially in the choir at St Hedwig’s Church. She also enjoyed being involved with the Christian Women at the Church, helping with activities and shopping at rummage sales. She had many friends she enjoyed seeing at the Elder Meal Sight, where they shared a low cost meal together and talked. Mary Ann also helped work at the sight at times. It seemed that her purpose was to – “Make it to Church and the Elder Meal Sight.” When it came to her leisure time, Mary Ann enjoyed watching old TV shows and Judge Judy.
Mary Ann suffered a massive heart attack on December 8, 2010. After 3 weeks of rehabilitation, she was sent home under hospice care on January 8, 2011. Sadly, Mary Ann passed away on Wednesday, February 16, 2011, at the age of 76.
Beloved wife of the late Cleetice E. Jent. Cherished mother of Patricia (Peter) Brunette, Michael (Mahita Lydia Gone) Jent, Joseph (Renee) Jent, Daniel (Jeff Nelson) Jent, Judith (Yasser Ahmad) Jent, and Thomas Jent. Further survived by 16 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, brothers, sisters, other relatives and friends. Visitation will be on Friday, February 18, at Suminski Family Funeral Homes from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Funeral Mass will be at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 19, at Three Holy Women Parish – St. Hedwig Church, 1702 N. Humboldt Avenue, Milwaukee. Interment Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Mary Ann’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you may share a memory with her family or sign her online guest book. Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Suminski/Weiss, 1901 N. Farwell Avenue; (414) 2765122.