After she'd plotted out the path of roads and highways for the Hennepin County Surveyor's Office, Jean Elizabeth Amick would sign all her draft copies with the name she preferred: BJ Amick.
She'd picked the nickname when she was still a teenager in Wayzata in the late 1930s and "Betty Jean," as she was sometimes called, just didn't seem like the right fit. But it came in handy decades later, when she was one of the few women engineering the development of metro-area highways and wanted to ensure that no one would discount her work because of her gender.
Amick, who died March 23 at age 94, had a lifelong curiosity about science, space and medicine that persisted through her last years. Born in Minneapolis in 1921, Amick was encouraged to pursue an education by her mother, who had herself earned a degree in botany at a time when few women attended college. Amick took classes in nursing, drew cartoons for a student magazine and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota before moving to the East Coast with her husband, a Navy officer.
In Connecticut, her husband away serving in World War II, Amick worked in the engineering department of the aircraft manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, helping to design plane engines. She moved to Washington state and lived around the Midwest before returning to the Twin Cities and launching a long career in the Hennepin County Surveyor's Office, where she stayed until retirement. In that time, she also raised two sons, Robert and Christopher.
Daughter-in-law Karen Lokkesmoe said Amick helped plot the path of Hennepin County Road 62, which later became known as the Crosstown, and relished any opportunity to explore the mechanics of a project.
"She definitely had an engineer's spirit," Lokkesmoe said. "She always wanted to know how everything worked."
At work, at home and even when running errands, Amick was the type of person who made sure she knew people's names and made them feel valued, Lokkesmoe said. It was a characteristic that stretched all the way back to her childhood; younger brother Jerry Fox, now of Victoria, remembers Amick being willing to help her kid brother with his paper route when he was sick.
"She had a remarkable ability to really be present with people," Lokkesmoe said. "She always maintained that she wasn't good with people, but I don't know anybody that knew the names of their grocer, and the woman that worked at the pharmacy, and their kids. … She was remarkable."
In retirement, Amick lived independently, enjoyed gardening and loved her cat, Carla III. (There had also been a Carla and a Carla II, who did not resemble each other or Carla III.) She was a voracious reader, from the daily newspaper to science fiction novels. She kept up with current events, with interests ranging from the declining bee population to the International Space Station, and looked forward to The Economist magazine's quarterly section on technology.
"She could describe to you the entire Space Station, how it was built, what parts went where," Amick said.
Though she lived for many years in Hopkins, Amick most recently resided in Chanhassen. Fox said his sister grew up enjoying living near the water, and both sailed as children. Amick had lived for decades in a home on Lotus Lake, but her declining health prompted plans to leave it in the near future.
"The one thing that pleases me is she was dreading leaving the lake, and now she won't have to," Fox said.
Amick is survived by her brother; sister-in-law, Page Fox; daughter-in-law Lokkesmoe, and one granddaughter. Services will be held in April.