Norma Jean King was born February 25, 1932 in Monroe City, MO. Jean, as she was known, was the youngest of Samuel T. and Della Cora Branch’s seven children and grew up on the family farm.
Jean took piano lessons as an adolescent, and frequently sang in church and other settings, with music becoming a lifelong passion. She graduated from Monroe City High School in 1949 and studied voice at Kansas City Conservatory and the University of Arizona (Tucson).
On Christmas Day in 1950, Jean married Charles F. “Chuck” King of Hannibal, MO. Soon afterwards, the couple moved to Dallas, TX, where Jean became a featured vocal soloist at First Methodist Church and, upon receiving a voice scholarship, studied at Southern Methodist University. She performed with the Dallas Symphony Singers and the Dallas Lyric Theater and appeared as a vocalist and model on various local TV shows.
After having their first child, Jean and Chuck moved to Quincy, IL, where they lived for 36 years. They became members of Vermont Street United Methodist Church, where Jean sang in the Chancel Choir, and served as a worship committee chair and a trustee. She performed with the Quincy Symphony Chorus and became in demand for her beautiful lyric soprano voice, appearing frequently as a soloist at weddings, funerals, and other events in the area.
During her time in Quincy, Jean was actively involved in many community projects, including the Quincy Service League, P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter F, and the Sunset Home auxiliary. From 1981 to 1993, Jean was co-owner (with her husband Chuck) and vice-president of Branch-Hess Vending Service, and also operated her clothing store, Jean’s Fashion Gallery, for several years.
Upon retiring in 1993, Jean and Chuck moved to Sun City West, AZ, where Jean continued to sing in local churches and with the Westernaires Chorus. A few years after Chuck’s death in 2004, she began suffering from memory loss and dementia, whereupon her children moved her to a specialized living facility in Illinois. With family by her side, Jean passed peacefully at Willowbrook Memory Care in Savoy, IL on July 3, 2018.
She was preceded in death by her parents; siblings R.C. Branch, Helen Ashley, Norma Deppner, Neva Hess, Maynard Branch, and Opal Garnet Branch; grandson Kenneth Crede; nephews David Hess and Ed Callaway; and niece Melody Drew. She is survived by her children Mark Gregory King (Barbara) of Sun City West, AZ, Kelligay “Gay” King Crede (Daniel) of Urbana, IL, and Matt King (Aera) of West Orange, NJ; grandchildren Shirley Phares, Bryant Crede, Caleb Crede, Anthony King, and Serena King; and great-grandchildren Allison Walters, Christina Walters, Mikala Crede, and Jalyssa Crede.
A memorial service will be held at Vermont Street United Methodist Church in Quincy on Friday, August 10 at 10:30 am, followed by a luncheon.
Jean was passionate about helping others in many ways but was especially concerned with feeding hungry children and supporting young musicians. With this in mind, the family suggests that memorials be made in Jean’s name to organizations that alleviate hunger or fund music scholarships.
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