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Celebration of Life

Jackson County Public Library Community Room
Sunday April 10th, 2022

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Jean Kirkland

Jean Kirkland, age 75, died March 14, 2022.   Jean was a loving and committed wife, mother, grandmother, counselor, and friend.  

Jean was seen and experienced by so many people as very present, engaging, strong, compassionate, insightful, courageous, passionate, fun, and spiritually conscious.  She loved the mountains and beaches, pets and all animals, being an avid reader, giving thoughtful gifts, and being a host. She put a lot of thought, effort, and training into her development as a very respected and skillful psychotherapist.  Jean welcomed all types of clients and issues and was a first-choice referral for so many colleagues and community people. She knew how to respond to others and problems more from her heart than from her head and was more about connecting and relationships than outcomes and accomplishments. Others felt better about themselves in her presence and they would share stories of how she went out of her way to help them, and they would often say “Jean saved my life!”  She was a strong advocate for acceptance, loving-kindness, diversity, inclusion, peace, and protecting our environment.

Jean grew up in Brewton, Alabama, graduated from Wesleyan College (GA), and earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from University of West Florida. After college she worked as a high school English teacher. After graduate school she moved to North Carolina and started working for the Smokey Mountain Mental Health Center as a school counselor.  She was then a counselor at Western Carolina University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center before she went into full-time private practice as a licensed counselor and psychologist in Sylva for thirty years.

Jean loved listening to, supporting, and taking care of her family. She was born in Brewton, Alabama to the late Reo Kirkland and Martha Terry Kirkland, and preceded in death by her brother Reo Kirkland Jr. She is survived by her husband of 40 years, John Ritchie, daughters Jennifer Baer and Kaitlin Ritchie, sons Robb (Patty) Baer, Kyle (Cara) Barrineau, and Michael (Lydia) Ritchie; grandchildren Hayley Baer (Matt) Hardwick, Peyton Baer, and Taylor and Jackson Barrineau, and Anders Ritchie; great grandson Charles Hardwick, and her brother Karl (Laurie) Kirkland.

Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at appalachianfuneralservices.com. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 2 PM on Sunday April 10, 2022, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Library in Sylva. Please refer to the above website for any possible updates before April 10.

Appalachian Funeral Services has been entrusted with Jean’s funeral arrangements.

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Jean Kirkland, please visit our flower store.


Jean and I were classmates at Wesleyan College, Class of 1968. In October of 2019, several of us traveled to Sylva to have a visit with Jean. Our time together was warm and cordial as we reminisced about our time together in Macon. I am now especially grateful that we had that visit with Jean. I send prayerful condolences to everyone in Jean's family.

Betsy Martin Bunte May 23 2022 2:21 PM

She truly saved my life. And I just learned about her passing yesterday. So very sad for all her friends and family and for her clients who got to be blessed by her gift of therapy. My heart is broken.

Terri Ducker May 23 2022 9:44 AM

A candle was lit in memory of Jean Kirkland

Kenneth Brown Apr 10 2022 1:15 PM

Jean’s passing is a loss for all of us. She filled up any room she entered with her spirit. She cared for those around her and lifted their spirits as well. She will be missed but her memory and smile will stay with us in our hearts.

Sarah Watson Williams Apr 10 2022 10:22 AM

I am so sorry for your loss. I will always remember Jean's kindness, generosity, and empathic spirit. It was clear she cared deeply about all living things and lived her life accordingly. Recently, I was touched by the care she took to frame and send a photo of my parents dancing at Michael's wedding--a seemingly small gesture that gave both of them such pleasure! Everyone experiences loss differently, so I wish for you all the time and space and understanding of others that you may need as you make your way. Much love!

Emily Cooke Apr 9 2022 5:46 PM

Keeping all of you in my heart as you mourn the loss and celebrate Jean's life. When I started school at WCU in 1980 I began seeing Jean for therapy and saw her off an on for the next 20 years. She helped and guided me through some tough times and I will always remember the love, compassion and care she showed me. She made a difference in my life and in the lives of so many people. I'm a therapist now and I strive to model how I show up for people on how Jean showed up for me. Love and peace to you all.

Margie Allison Apr 8 2022 7:07 PM

A candle was lit in memory of Jean Kirkland

Margie Allison Apr 8 2022 7:00 PM

Nick Emmanuel just called and told me this sad news. What a blessing Jean was! So vibrant and loving and fun and deep. John, you and her children and grandchildren are in my heart.

Gus Kaufman Apr 7 2022 3:54 PM

My sympathies to Jean’s family. She was a wonderful friend for a number of years. She made a huge impact on my life both professionally and personally

Mike Neidig Apr 5 2022 2:36 PM

My deepest sympathy to Jean's family and friends in the loss of this special human. .

Kitty Boyer Apr 3 2022 10:48 PM

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