Jeanne Bice was a GREAT natural born teacher who discovered a unique method of teaching, in an unorthodox ‘classroom’ –touching the hearts of millions of women. It took her many years to fulfill her calling. But she never gave up.
Jeanne grew up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She attended local Catholic grade schools, where she had lots of friends.
3rd grade class picture; can you spot Jeanne?
Jeanne later attended St. Mary’s Springs Academy, the local Catholic high school. It was there that Jeanne met the teacher who would change her life, Sister Michaela O’Brien.
Jeanne & Sister Michaela: 1957
Nancy Kohlman Furr, Jeanne’s lifelong friend and classmate since 5th grade, remembers: ‘Sister Michaela was in her 20s, and like an older sibling to us. She taught Biology and because she was a young nun, she was active in lots of other activities; including producing and directing the Senior Class play. Our Senior Play was ‘I Remember Mama’, and Sister immediately decided that Jeanne should play Mama, the leading role.
‘Jeanne was reluctant. While she was very popular and had lots of friends, she could also be shy. Sister wouldn’t take no for an answer! So Jeanne became Mama. She was perfect! And it was a huge hit!’
That early taste of success, and the applause it brought, gave Jeanne confidence and planted a seed that would grow and develop in the years that followed.
Inspired by Sister Michaela, Jeanne decided that she would become a teacher herself when she graduated from St. Mary’s Springs.
Off she went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to begin her studies, majoring in Education. But as luck would have it, love intervened! During summer vacation, she met Butch Bice, from Ripon, Wisconsin, and a whirlwind romance ensued. They were married, and she transferred her studies to the college where Butch was enrolled—still majoring in Education.
Jeanne loved the idea of becoming an elementary school teacher. She especially loved decorating the classrooms, planning the bulletin boards that were so important —bringing to life the themes and the story-telling graphics that educated young kids about important subjects. She earned kudos for her efforts.
Then came the moment of truth! Practice teaching! Taking charge. Being responsible for teaching and maintaining order over a group of young free-spirited kids with a mind of their own! Such chaos was not what she had bargained for! That was when Jeanne decided actually being an elementary school teacher was not for her. But it was also the time when her admiration for teachers was forever solidified! (Of course her talent for decorating and designing graphic motifs to inspire would later find new outlets.)
Years later she would always say to teachers who phoned into her shows on QVC: ‘Oh honey, you are a saint!’ And she meant it.
While she never became a teacher in the traditional sense, Jeanne Bice was absolutely a teacher in the truest sense of the word.
Throughout her life she found new ways and venues to connect with others, sharing insight and wisdom gained from life lessons—often learned the hard way.
As a young mother in Ripon, she created her own afternoon radio talk show on the local station owned by Butch’s family. She listened to callers, dispensed advice, told stories and developed a following that made her a local celebrity.
She opened a popular retail boutique, ‘The Silent Woman’, that specialized in embellished apparel that she designed and had made by local women. It became a destination for locals and tourists. She appeared at Junior League shows, developing a following throughout the Midwest.
Following the tragic and sudden loss of her beloved Butch at a young age, Jeanne was at a crossroads. She moved her fashion business to Florida, struggling to develop a new path for herself and her children. This led to the audition for QVC on their 50-50 tour, resulting in the first Quacker Factory appearance on Feb. 4, 1995.
In effect her Quacker Factory shows on QVC became Jeanne’s classroom. Viewers loved her fashion designs, but it was her stories that inspired, encouraged, and entertained millions of women—many of whom had gone through situations similar to hers.
Her fashion creations added ‘sparkle and shine’ that many never knew they would experience. Her clothes made people happy. Her philosophy of life gave people hope. Interestingly many of her most avid customers were teachers, who told her how much their young students loved her colorful clothes and images.
In 2005 Jeanne published what was in effect her ‘text book’ entitled: ‘PULL YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BRA STRAPS. It became a best seller, with major features in the New York Times, and on national talk shows.
In 2009, she followed it with ‘THE RUBBER DUCK PRINCIPLE’.
A ‘Bra Straps’ publicity photo from 2005.
All her life, regardless of where she lived, Jeanne never forgot her roots, and her early years in Wisconsin. In Fond du Lac where she grew up. In Ripon where she lived with Butch, raised her children, and started her fashion career.
She treasured the memories made there. She loved the people who enriched her life. She reached out, staying in touch. A phone call on their birthdays. An unexpected note to say hello.
Sister Michaela, that young vibrant nun who touched Jeanne’s heart in high school—teaching her, encouraging her—remained a key figure and dear friend the rest of her life. Obviously, she was a great teacher.
Jeanne & Sister Michaela, June 2009
On National Teacher Appreciation Day, and every day, Quacker Factory salutes the teachers who have touched all our lives. If you can, we encourage you to reach out and thank them.
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