Dec. 2, 1925 – June 30, 2023
Former Tulsa artist and business owner Jean Engler, 97, died Friday, June 30, at the home of her nephew Joe Hess and his wife Linda, of Wendell, North Carolina. She was under hospice care at the time of her passing.
Born Wanda Jean Hess on Dec. 2, 1925 in Ballard, Okla., she moved to Tulsa as a young woman during World War II where she took a job as a PBX operator for a local utility company.
She would later marry local freelance photographer and businessman John Burke Engler in 1952 and together they owned and operated a thriving retail camera store, photo development and equipment sales business, Engler Photo Supply, at 1643 S. Boston Ave. in downtown Tulsa from 1958 until its closure in early 1990. At its height, the former business catered to a variety of amateur photo enthusiasts, as well as Tulsa’s top professional photographers and media outlets.
The couple was widely traveled and this aided Mrs. Engler’s passion for painting, which consumed much of her time and energy during a highly productive artistic period in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, in which she displayed her work — primarily subjects of the American Southwest — at numerous art shows throughout the region.
Mrs. Engler was also involved in several local social organizations, including the Tulsa Chapter of Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots. In 1967 she and the group were featured in a special “World of Women” page published in the April 13, 1967 edition of the Tulsa Daily World, promoting a Tulsa Fly-In for women pilots from a multi-state region.
The Englers were also well-known at the time for hosting numerous social gatherings at their spacious ranch-style home on South Peoria Avenue.
Following her husband’s death in 1976, Mrs. Engler continued to operate the business until its ultimate closure. She also honored her Cherokee heritage through her affiliation with the Descendents of Nancy Ward association and by participating in numerous art shows and events promoting the tribe. In 2000, her showing at The Indian Territory Art Gallery helped kick off that year’s Indian Arts and Humanities Council Month with art and events observing The Trail of Tears.
In her laters years, Mrs. Engler moved from Tulsa with her sister to Salem, Ore. for a time to be near other close family members. After her sister Geneva died there in 2017, Jean moved to North Carolina to live out her remaining years with her nephew and his family.
She was preceded in death by husband, John Engler, her parents James Hugh Hess and Maude Welch Hess, as well as all of ten of her siblings; an infant brother, Clarence Hugh Hess, Effie Beulah “Sis” Stanczyk, John T. Hess, Walter H. Hess, James Brice Hess, George Edward Hess, Ina Mae Rothhammer, Betty J. Smith, and Geneva R. Rush, as well as a very close niece, Carolyn R. Morris.
Although she did not have children of her own, she leaves behind numerous generations of nieces and nephews around the country.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are requested to be made to Transitions Life Care. www.transitionslifecare.org/donate/
There will be a memorial service for Jean on Saturday July 22 at 1 pm at Knightdale Baptist Church, 15 Main St., Knightdale, NC.
According to her wishes, Mrs. Engler’s remains will be cremated under the direction of Strickland Funeral Home & Crematory, Wendell, N.C. www.stricklandfuneral.com