A long time Valley resident and founding member of the Solvang Senior Center, passed away peacefully on January 23, 2021 at The Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital.
In 1928, Jean Marie Gotchall was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa to Fern and Evelyn Rapp. She was the middle child of three and outlived both her older sister, Betty and her younger brother Fredric. Growing up in the Midwest, Jean enjoyed an idyllic childhood. The Rapps were a musical family and at a very young age, Jean learned to play the cornet, violin and trumpet. She was always eager to learn new instruments and later the piano became dear to her. Music was an essential part of her life!
As a young adult, Jean moved to New Mexico to be near her sister and to attend the University of New Mexico, from which she graduated in 1950. Shortly thereafter, Jean met and married, Leon Gotchall and they made their home in Albuquerque. In the early seventies, Leon, who was employed as an engineer for Boeing Aircraft, was transferred to Vandenberg Air Force Base, compelling them to move to the Santa Ynez Valley.
After the untimely death of her husband, Jean became involved in many Valley endeavors. She worked at the Santa Ynez Valley Transit as one of their very first bus drivers! She also played the French horn as a member of the Valley Orchestra and Solvang Village Band.
The Solvang Senior Center was always dear to Jean and she was instrumental in obtaining the Center's current site and building. She spent many wonderful years as a member of the Board of Directors. Jean devoted many hours of volunteer work at the Center and loved playing the piano for the members. She also played for the residents of Atterdag Village and the Friendship House.
For the last several years, Jean was lovingly cared for at the Friendship House in Solvang. Still wanting to learn, it was there that she learned to play the bells and marimba!
Jean was loved by many and will be greatly missed, but those who knew her are comforted in knowing that she's playing some heavenly instrument in God's eternal orchestra. Jean's legacy can be honored by a simple gift to the Solvang Senior Center (805-688-3793).