The day after her 40th birthday, after spending the night celebrating with her friends, Jean Winters was struck and killed while walking alongside Illinois 177.
She was killed instantly, which is a great comfort to her older sister, who struggles with the thought of having to bury her.
“It’s so hard to think that she died alone on the side of the highway,” said Cherilyn Winters. “The world is less for not having her in it.”
Jean Winters, who was from New Baden, was walking on Illinois 177 near Bottom Prairie Road at 5 a.m. Wednesday, wearing all black, when the driver of a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt struck her. The driver, Scott Moffatt, 36, of Okawville, was not injured. Moffatt, who struck Winters while attempting to pass a pickup truck, told police he did not see her until he hit her, according to the Washington County Coroner’s Office.
Jean Winters was an ordained minister, Cherilyn Winters said, and started to perform weddings for same-sex couples after she came out as gay.
“She found that she loved being able to help other people after it became legal to show their love to the world, because she spent so much of her life hiding who she was,” Cherilyn Winters said.
Jean Winters wasn’t married and had no kids, but she doted on her seven nieces and nephews, and treated her friends’ kids as her own.
Although she struggled with depression and bipolar disorder, Jean Winters never let her mental illnesses stop her, her sister said. She was loving and generous and had the “biggest heart of just anybody you could have met,” Cherilyn Winters said.
Jean Winters rocked a pink mohawk, which fit her personality perfectly, Cherilyn Winters said.
“She was her and didn’t care what other people thought. They could take it or leave it,” Cherilyn Winters said.
The Steampipe Lounge bar in Okawville posted on Facebook about a benefit they were hosting for Jean Winters, to help pay for her services. The benefit is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the bar. There will be a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, a raffle for a barrel of alcohol and a DJ.
Jean Winters’ favorite drink, Captain and Coke, will be the drink special.
“Today, we lost a dear friend. When Jean D. Winters visited us, not only would her laugh be heard throughout the bar, but her smile would be infectious,” the post read. “She just had a way to cheer us all up, no matter the circumstance. Rest in peace, Mean Jean. We’ll miss you so....Please come and help us remember our dear friend and ensure that she has the best send off that we can give her.”
Jean Winters’ family is planning a Feb. 17 service in Southern Illinois. As Jean Winters did not have life insurance, the family has asked for donations in lieu of flowers. Cherilyn Winters set up a GoFundMe page to help fund the funeral.