Carpentersville Memories

In Honor and Memory of Jeannine Engels

 May 1, 1970 – February 4, 2018


Jeannine Engels – Liebert

Jeannine Engels Liebert was born May 1, 1970 at Sherman Hospital in Elgin.  She passed away at the young age of 47 on February 4, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Two Angels as performed by Jeannine Liebert, Scott McClatchy, Hans Liebert, Rusty Crowe and friends.  Recorded at Music Makers Studios in New York City.

Thoughts of Jeannine from a dear friend

The first time I met Jeannine was at Lotte Berk Method, an exercise studio on the Upper East Side in New York City. She was full of energy, with a sparkling smile and infectious laugh. Her obvious joie de vivre could turn anyone’s day around. When Jeannine smiled, her whole face smiled, especially her eyes. I remember the day I met her she was going to meet her husband Hans at the Natural History Museum for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon inflation event.. She was always up for an adventure and loved living in NYC.

My boyfriend (now husband) Zack and I met Hans and Jeannine for dinner soon after that day. We went to Shabu-Tatsu, a unique and cozy Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood where you could cook your meal in courses in a hot stone pot in the middle of table. It was a lively evening as we cooked our noodles, veggies and beef and got to know each other through our stories. Zack told a funny (and painful) story about falling out of the lofted bed at my place and his three part scream as he went down. We could not stop laughing. It was an amazing night and really the point that we started our friendship.

At that time, in the mid-1990s, Hans and Jeannine lived in a unique building on Central Park West. It looked like a German manor filled with many interesting nooks and crannies. They told us the story of how when they had moved to NYC from Florida they ended up sleeping on their real estate agent’s floor for some time before they could move into the apartment. It sounded pretty miserable but sometimes apartments are worth it. They had made this one their home with cozy furnishings, an extensive collection of music and videotapes, artwork, tchotchkes, family photographs and a kitchen full of Jeannine’s favorite tools. The kitchen seemed way too small for Jeannine’s culinary endeavors, but she had strategically organized every inch of that kitchen with a space for everything. I remember there were even pots and pans and kitchen machinery packed into the linen closet. She made it work and produced many amazing things in that space! Once she threw a super bowl party (though none of us were really into sports that much). It was mostly for the food I think! I remember she made a rich and yummy cheddar cheese soup! Jeannine had recently dressed as Barbie for Halloween and had a long blonde wig hanging out in the apartment. She had Zack try it on and we all couldn’t stop laughing. Zack looked like Dana Carvey from Wayne’s world and quick thinking Hans snapped a picture to preserve the moment. I think I also actually enjoyed watching some of the football that day – the company is what makes it fun and memorable.

She was a cook and a baker – a culinary maven to say the least – and yes, she almost always went totally overboard with everything. She loved cooking and baking and sharing food. For Jeannine, making food was an event. No special occasion could go by without multiple piesJeannine’s kitchen was a hub of activity, and we met many friends just by showing up at her apartment for a dinner party . And when I had trouble with my baked goods, she would be the one I would consult. In nearly all aspects of her life, she was meticulous – as a baker, cook, teacher, and friend.

I always had this fantasy that we might all one day move out of the city, buy a huge old house (or two) and open a Bed & Breakfast with a giant barn with studios for each one of us for our various creative pursuits. I would send Jeannine real estate listings that I would see for a good prospect and we would – half seriously and half joking talk about going for it.

Jeannine and I were both Midwestern girls in the big city. NYC energized, intrigued, and exhausted us, but we both knew part of our souls belonged with the landscapes and people we loved the most. Jeannine shared many stories of her Wisconsin family over the years and I was so charmed by them all and stories of her childhood growing up in her parent’s restaurant. I heard so much about Linda and Lorelei that I felt like I knew them personally. Also, her visits to Washington Island with Hans and his family were a very important and looked forward to time for both of them. Jeannine dabbled in painting and I remember a picture she painted of herself paddling a canoe across a lake inspired by her yearly visits to Wisconsin. She had it hanging up in her apartment in a prominent spot and I always reflected on it. I loved that she always kept learning and pursuing her hobbies and passions. She was very creative and talented.

One time, Jeannine called me and told me she had some tickets for “The Isaac Mizrahi Show.” I think we may have both thought we were about to attend a fashion show but it turned out to be a pilot for a new TV talk show. We were herded into the audience like cattle and then seated after waiting in line for a long time. The show was a hoot – Isaac Mizrahi was super funny. He had Mario Batali on as his guest in his chef jacket, shorts and orange crocs. The best part was the DMV makeovers that he did at a DMV in New Jersey. He would surprise people when they showed up at the DMV with a makeover before they got their picture taken for their license. He had just launched his line at Target and we all got a pair of sunglasses as a souvenir. It was a silly and exciting afternoon and so fun to be there with Jeannine.

She loved cats and Florence and Chloe lived like queens. She and Hans were our go-to catsitters of course. You know who your friends are when they cat sit for you over and over again – even when it’s totally inconvenient. Once when they were catsitting for us they made a video of our cats and Hans edited it with music “Year of the Cat.” Besides the cats and their antics, they also featured random things found in our apartment like an expired driver’s license and some Spanish postcards of bright Flamenco dancers with very harsh and serious expressions. It is a wonderful keepsake remembering our 26th Street apartment and our lovely cats Pascal and Fabienne.

On 9-11, 2001 we were all in a state of shock and felt disembodied somehow. We were lucky to have each other to stay grounded at the time when none of us knew quite what to do and which direction was up. Our city was full of ash and the smell of burning and tragic loss was everywhere for months. Luckily we did not lose close friends but we knew people who had died or fled the area in the chaos. It changed our city and our reality. We had tickets to a dance performance at the Kitchen on 9-12 and we decided to go as we learned the performance would go on. We met there like sleepwalkers and hugged for a long time. It was a huge relief to see each other and be together that night. The sidewalks were lined with candles and the evening took on an other-worldly quality as we experienced the performance and then talked the rest of the evening at bar on 10th Avenue. Those two were our city homebase and it helped us get through that depressing and somber period of time that left a scar on all of us.

Jeannine was a true girlfriend and always had an ear for me. She was very intuitive as well and knew when I was not at my best. She sympathized with my suffering with chronic migraine. She understood how much migraines affect my outlook and energy and was always willing to hear about any and every horrible episode. When she was diagnosed with T1 Diabetes she took on the burden with fortitude and grace and I know it was very hard wearing on her at times. She stayed positive and spread her positivity to all she met and knew in spite of any personal setbacks.

She also loved shopping and clothes, getting dressed for a special occasion, jewelry, and jewelry-making! She had a knack for making things beautiful – her surrounding as well as the jewelry she made. She appreciated unique and antique items and also modern aesthetics. Jeannine had added antique knobs to their kitchen cabinets and drawers – each knob was unique and beautiful. I appreciated this touch that reflected her unique style and spent times looking at each time and time again. Her personal style reflected outward her original and beautiful spirit. She loved connecting materials and their meanings when creating a special piece for someone. She very thoughtfully and generously crafted lovely necklaces for me and my mother in law with stones that aided healing when we needed them. She loved music and movies. She was always telling or emailing me names of movies she watched and loved.

I can go on and on with dozens of memorable stories of fun times that reflect Jeannine’s unique character and spirit. She was there for both mundane and important events in my life and always when I needed her. I don’t think there are enough adjectives to describe her. She was smart, kind, talented, passionate, creative, kind, caring and compassionate, sincere, intuitive, humble, fun-loving. She appreciated people and touched many lives in a meaningful way, she personalized everything with a special touch. She was beautiful inside and out and the amazing things she made – food, jewelry, paintings – showed her thoughtful , generous, caring and positive spirit. She was a problem solver, a wanderer, an adventurer, and so full of joy. She was a shining star and I will never forget the times we shared, her unforgettable presence and the impact she had on my life.