Belz, Jean Franzenburg
Jean Franzenburg Belz, 91, of Walker, died Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010, at St. Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids, following a massive stroke one week earlier.
Jean was born May 8, 1919, in Dolliver, Iowa. Her father, Paul Franzenburg Sr., was an immigrant from Germany, who had earlier married a widowed mother of three, Bertha Watkins. To Paul and Bertha were born five more children: Paul Jr., Jean, Ruth, Wilhemina and Collyn. Ruth (Koepke), Fairfield Glade, Tenn., and Collyn (Schmidt), Lookout Mountain, Ga., survive Jean.
The coming of the Great Depression meant that Jean and her siblings moved from small Midwest town to small Midwest town, following their father who was a butcher and meat retailer. Their 1934 arrival in Conrad, Iowa, however, signaled the end of that nomadic life and the establishment at last of a sound business that continued for the next generation as Franzenburg Meats. More significantly, the move to Conrad brought about the intersection between Jean’s life as a young high school junior with that of Max Belz, a third generation grain, lumber, and coal dealer, whose parents were mainstays in Conrad. Max was a recent Conrad High School grad employed by his uncle’s daily newspaper in Brainerd, Minn. Even after relocating to Excelsior Springs, Mo., though, and starting journalism studies at the University of Missouri, Max found his heart tugged toward Conrad—partly to join his father in business but perhaps mostly to pursue Jean.
After her high school graduation in 1936, Jean left for Hamline University in Minnesota. But the very next year, it was back to Conrad —and an October wedding in an unseasonal snowstorm. The bride was only 18.
Two years later—but only after the death of her own mother—the young couple’s own family of eight children began to arrive. Julie (Al Lutz) — Lookout Mountain, Ga., Joel (Carol) — Asheville, N.C., Mark (Linda) — St. Louis, Mo., Mary (Steve Kaufmann) — Lookout Mountain, Ga., Tim (Sharon) — St. Louis, Mo., Nathaniel (Mindy) — Asheville, N.C., Andrew (Mary Anna) — Walker, Iowa, and Sara (Jim Drexler) — Chattanooga, Tenn., all survive their mother, along with 31 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren. Fully as significant as her biological family, though, was the work God did in Jean’s heart (along with that of her husband Max) during the 1940s. Their business prospered—but the gospel of God’s Word prospered more, prompting them to leave everything they had in 1946 to invest themselves in the work of the church and, ultimately, Christian education. Through the Bible Presbyterian Church and Cono Christian School, both near Walker, thousands of lives were touched over the next 64 years.
It was for only half that extended tenure, though, that Max and Jean Belz were allowed to labor together; he died in 1978. For 32 more years, from the center of Cono’s campus, her role as mother, teacher, essayist and perceptive reader, correspondent, wise friend, counselor, homemaker, gardener, musician and sports fan has continued only slightly diminished. Through all her 91 years, Jean Belz’s frugality—with money, possessions, time, and words—equipped and enabled her to be generous with others. She knew from experience that salvation is not something to be earned, but a gift from God. And she lived her whole long life passing God’s good gifts on to those around her.
The family has chosen Cono Christian School, Walker, IA 52352 (www.cono.org) to receive memorial gifts.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful medical staff of St. Luke’s Hospital and especially the nurses for their outstanding care of their mother in her final days.
Services will be at Bible Presbyterian Church, north of Walker, at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The public is also invited to a tribute hymn sing at 2:30 p.m. at the same location. Burial: Cono Cemetery near the church.