‘We’re gonna miss Jeannie’: Longtime co-owner of The Willo in Nevada City dies at 82 | TheUnion.com

‘We’re gonna miss Jeannie’: Longtime co-owner of The Willo in Nevada City dies at 82

Jeannie developed many friends over her life. She met many through her work at The Willo, and others through her activity around the county.
Submitted photo by Lisa Hiebert

Before she died, Dorothy Jeannie Hiebert enjoyed visiting Las Vegas during the week of Thanksgiving.

“That was the highlight of her life,” said her husband, Kenneth Hiebert. “She liked the thrill of going.”

Kenneth met Jeannie 60 years ago, when he was in the Navy on the Treasure Island naval base. The couple did many things together, most notably co-owning The Willo Steakhouse. But they had other adventures as well.

“We just did so many things together,” said Kenneth. “We built a cabin in Tahoe in the early ’70s.” In the early ’80s they bought a condominium together, he added.

Jeanne, the 26-year co-owner of The Willo, and Kenneth’s wife, died Saturday at 82.

“She was a sweetheart, and that’s what you’re going to find out from most people you talk to,” said Gay Clayton, who worked with Jeannie at the restaurant.

Nancy Wilson became friends with Jeannie when she bought The Willo 16 years ago. Jeannie and Kenneth taught Nancy the logistics of the business, like how to do the payroll, and how to order beer from distributors. Over time, their relationship changed.

“It became more like a friendship, it was very social,” said Wilson. “(Her and Kenneth) remained part of the family.”

Mike Byrne, Wilson’s partner, agreed.

“Jeannie was a very nice person, very helpful, very giving person,” he said.

Jeannie would quilt for Byrne and Wilson. One work specifically stands out.

“We have it in our house and use it often,” said Byrne of the pink comforter.


Jeannie was born in Utah, but when she moved here, she became an active resident, partaking in many Nevada County clubs.

She belonged to the quilt guild called “The Cover Girls,” said her daughter, Lisa Hiebert. They would frequently meet for lunches.

Lisa said her mother was very happy working at the Willo, meeting many friends there, and elsewhere around the community.

“She loved to play on her iPad,” said Lisa, adding that Jeannie was often busy responding to hundreds of emails from her friends.

Up until a few years ago, Jeannie would come to Super Bowl parties hosted by Byrne and Wilson. She was known for making cheese-stuffed mushrooms, he said.

“You had to grab them before they were gone,” he said.

Kenneth said he’s reminded of Jeannie each time he looks at the chair in which she used to sit.

“For the last couple years, we just kept each other company,” he said.

Byrne feels probably like many who met the longtime Nevada County resident.

“We’re gonna miss Jeannie and so will a lot of other folks,” he said.

A memorial potluck will be held for Hiebert from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 19 at the Willo Steakhouse.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

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