In Memorium: Jean Clark Holman

“Mean Jean” Holman at “Grandma’s” Bar, Kansas City. Photo courtesy of Jean Clark Holman’s family.

Jean Clark Holman

Aug. 19, 1957-Nov. 3, 2016

Jean Clark Holman, 59, known by many in Kansas City’s LGBT community through her work tending bar at Tootsie’s for 21 years and at Grandma’s, passed away Nov. 3, 2016. Many knew her by her nickname, “Mean Jean,” but they also saw and felt her kindness.

She is survived by her wife, Karen Kent, children Cheryl and Albert, stepchildren Gene and Amanda, brother Bob Clark, 11 grandchildren, and her beloved dog, Sandy. She was preceded in death by her parents, Donald & Marilyn Clark.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Kansas City Hospice House.

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Kirk Nelson and Melinda Ryder at Jean Holman’s Celebration of Life. Photo: Edith Fine-Duskin

A special celebration of life was held Nov. 12 at Missie B’s with family, friends and many customers and entertainers who knew her over the years. Entertainer Melinda Ryder summed up the evening, writing: “My heart is filled with Love & Pride from yesterday’s Celebration of Life for Mean Jean. It was evident by the packed house how loved she was. She will live on in our memories & our hearts. Huge thanks to Michael, Jan & Chad from Missie B’s for hosting this event & being the usual caring, compassionate & giving people they are. … Huge thanks to Loreal, Iman Mykals, Belle Starr, Shane Lee, Rozz Smith, & my wonderful husband Kirk for making this evening so special. … We raised $500 for Mean Jean’s family from the open bar & $850 for KC Hospice from the entertainers’ tips & the raffle! This just proves that we are Stronger Together!”

Karen McEnaney, Jean’s friend, wrote:

“If you could crack Jean’s exterior crustacean shell, what you received was more precious than a pearl. She by no means had an easy life and suffered many hardships throughout her life. What she made of herself because of this is what we all came to know as the kindest, fiercely protective mother of all of Kansas City’s gay and lesbian community.

“Jean took to Tootsie’s like a fish to water, and once behind that bar, she ruled supreme. Upon first entering the bar, most people were taken aback by her brass attitude and abrupt service, but soon learned she was just being the Leo she was and protecting her den. Jean was the quintessential cub mother to all her flock. She would hurdle the bar to break up a fight that had barely begun.

“She took great pleasure in getting you obliterated if you were a mixed drinker, and her self-named drink, The Mean Jean, would put you on your ass (that’s why I called her Mean Jean – she was vicious with a mixed drink). She counseled and taught; she listened and learned; she loved and lost. All with a smile, smirk or, if you got her on something or showed your ass, you would get the famous flip of the bird and your walking papers.

“Jean was selfless to a fault, but showed all of us the true meaning of unconditional love, respect and forgiveness. Her heart beat for all of us, all the time. She never gave up until she was satisfied with the result. Even with her last breaths, Jean was watching over us, willing us to see she was finally ready to take her leave.”

Childhood friend Mary Fran wrote to Jean a few days before her death. This is how her letter began:

“Dear Jean,

“Sadly, the time has come for me to write this farewell letter. We’ve known each other for 56 years, and that gives you the distinct honor of being my first friend! I love you like the little sister I never had. I must be one of the few people left in this world that knew you BEFORE you (or someone you know) tagged you with the word ‘Mean’ and added it to your name. They obviously didn’t know the same ‘Jeannie’ that I knew.”

Karen Kent, Jean’s wife, wrote:

“Jean A. Holman was a very loving mother, daughter, wife and grandmother. Jean treated everybody with the utmost respect and dignity. I got the honor to call Jean my wife for 16 wonderful years. When Jean found out that she had throat cancer, she was very determined to beat this nasty battle. In our eyes, she won that battle, because it could have taken her life a lot sooner than what it did. Jean was a very strong-willed person. She also was someone you could count on, no matter what was going on in her own life. Jean was also the best bartender I had ever seen. She would remember everybody’s drinks just from the first time of ordering. She was the best person to go talk to when you were feeling down. She would be the one to make you laugh and smile. Jean had a lot of love that came into her life. She made an impact in all of our lives. Jean will be dearly missed by her wife, family and all the people she made friends with in this lifetime.”

Cheryl Sallaz, Jean’s daughter, wrote:

“She worked at a bar called Tootsie’s. … I can remember walking in there watching Chiefs games every Sunday, helping in the kitchen just to spend time with her. She was special to a lot of people. … She would watch over who came into the bar. She always had that motherly instinct even after we were all grown. …

“When I had her first grandkid, God, did she seem to change. Family seemed more important to her. She was so proud of her first grandchild. She wore that proudness for months.

“Years went by. Kids starting growing. My family and I moved to Denver. Things went on and happened. Then we found out she had Stage 3 cancer. She did chemo and radiation … [then] got the all-clear. [Later, the cancer  came back, Stage 4 this time.] … She kept trying to fight her hardest. She did get to do a few things that were on that bucket list of hers before she had to give in. …

“She lives on in all her grandchildren, in their smiles and laughs. She fought her heart out to try to keep on going, but it was just too much of a battle. … She left her mark on this earth with all the people she has touched. Rest in peace, Mean Jean Clark Holman, aka Grandma. You will always be loved and never forgotten.”