Obituaries detail

Rena Jonathan

Rena Jonathan-devoted mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin- passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday April 14, 2021, in Kansas City, Missouri.  She was 99.  Her husband Jack (99) passed away on January 16, 2021

Rena was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Benjamin and Carolina Libera.  Tragically her father, a firefighter, died on the job when she was two years old.   Her mother moved back to Italy, during which time Rena became fluent in Italian.  Her close relationship with her family in Italy and her language skills, which included French, were of great benefit both professionally and personally. She maintained strong ties with family in Italy for the rest of her life. 

After returning to Springfield in 1928 her mother married Serafino Marchetti, a fruit and produce merchant in Springfield.   Rena graduated from Classical High School and received a scholarship to Barnard College in New York City.  After graduating in the middle of World War II she moved to Washington DC where she worked for several U.S. government agencies devoted to the war effort. 
At war’s end her language skills resulted in her being assigned to the U.S. team tasked with setting up a key agency of the fledging United Nations; the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) which is based in Rome, Italy.  She traveled extensively from the U.S. to Europe during the years 1945-1950 as FAO took shape.

Rena was called back to Springfield due to her mother’s illness and subsequent death in 1950.  She met her future husband, Isaac “Jack” Jonathan, when he came to Springfield, a stop on a U.S. State Department sponsored speaking trip.  In fact, she arrived at Springfield International College, while he was presenting and sat in his seat.   They were married a few months later; the marriage lasted nearly 70 years.  Jack and Rena moved to his home in Egypt but the couple were forced to leave the country in 1952, after Nassar overthrew the monarchy.

Rena, pregnant with their first born, returned to Springfield, while Jack began his US career at World Publishing in Cleveland, Ohio.  Rena and baby Steve joined in 1953.  In 1954 Jack was offered a position with Hallmark Cards and they moved to Kansas City, Missouri which became their permanent base. 

The Midwest became her home, punctuated with extensive travel.  Rena’s strong belief in maintaining ties to her friends and family across the U.S. and Italy led her to undertake numerous trips often with three small children in tow. 

 

While living in a suburb of Kansas City she returned to on the staff of the Johnson County, Kansas Library system.


In Kansas City Rena and Jack joined and were active in All Souls Unitarian Univerall soulssalist Church, where they formed many decades-long friendships.  As a member of the Church’s Caring Committee through age 92, Rena regularly drove members to appointments around town.

Rena joined numerous cultural organizations in Kansas City, including the Alliance Francaise and Friends of Chamber Music. She developed a strong network of friends in and around the Kansas City area.  They came to be known as Rena’s Ramblers a group that traveled widely in the U.S. and then in Europe.  One of their more memorable trips resulted from their membership in a folk dancing group.  The group went to Bulgaria, where Jack’s family had lived for a generation before emigrating to Palestine and then Egypt. 

Rena is survived by her son Stephen Aaron Jonathan and his wife Cathleen; son David Anthony Jonathan; daughter Carla Anne Jonathan; grandchildren Daniel Stephen Jonathan and his wife Karrie,  Timothy Patrick Jonathan and Abigail Kathleen Jonathan and numerous nieces and nephews world-wide.  She was pre-deceased by her brother Carlo Marchetti.

Contributions in Rena’s memory may be made to All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Kansas City or through the following web page:  https://all-souls.org/

Burial will be in Springfield, Massachusetts.  There will be a memorial later this year with details to be provided to family and friends in the near future.

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