Provost leaves a legacy of peace in Superior

Founder of Grandmothers for Peace Northland chapter remembered as kind, loving and fierce in her beliefs.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, from left, shared a laugh with Jan Provost and her son Jerry during an event at Superior Middle School in December 2018. Longtime friend Jan Conley said Provost was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet the lieutenant governor. (Telegram file photo)

Nick Milroy was relatively new to politics when he went to a Norm Coleman campaign event with a sign that read “Veterans for Mondale" — Coleman’s opponent for the seat after the death of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Now a state representative for the 73rd District in Wisconsin, the South Range Democrat couldn’t help but notice the “little old ladies” also protesting in the taped-off, free-speech zone.

But it wasn’t until he ran for Superior City Council a few years later that he became friends with one of his constituents, Jan Provost, the reluctant founder of the Northland chapter of Grandmothers for Peace.

“Her legacy is that a single person can create change,” Milroy said.

Provost, 86, passed away peacefully April 6, but her legacy of kindness, love, devotion and conviction that peace could be achieved lives on with those who knew her best.


“I feel it can be attained, or I'd be out playing bridge somewhere,” Provost said in 2003, when the Northland chapter turned 20. But Provost admitted she was a reluctant leader in the peace movement and had to be convinced by her sister Barbara Wiedner, founder of Grandmothers for Peace International, to start the local chapter in Superior.

Dorothy Wolden wasn’t even a grandmother — her daughter was 8 — when Provost recruited her to join Grandmothers for Peace.

“It was after 9/11 and we were at some event before the invasion of Afghanistan," Wolden said. “I was telling her how terribly upsetting it was for me in the context of the whole country, and she said, ‘You should join Grandmothers for Peace.’”

Wolden remembered her reluctance, but did it anyway because Provost was open to ideas.

“An angel walked among us, but she was salty too,” Wolden said. “She was fearless ... she was so warm and supportive, and she was so wise. She was supportive of everyone.”

Provost demonstrated how warm and kindhearted she could be, even in the face of adversity, said Karen Barschdorf, a longtime member of Grandmothers for Peace.

It wasn’t long after the chapter started when a black car kept showing up outside her home day after day. One day, Provost had been baking when she noticed the car outside again, so she took some of the fresh-baked treats, walked outside, wrapped on the window and offered the treats to the men in the car, Barschdorf said. She said that was the last time the car showed up.

“Nothing was going to stop her,” Barschdorf said. “She was very gracious to other people … we’ll miss her.”


Donna Howard remembered protesting with Provost the extremely low frequency facility that communicated with Trident nuclear subs before the Navy shut them down.

Provost was “such a combination of absolute sweetness and tenderness and love, with a fierceness in her beliefs about what was right,” Howard said.

Jan Conley said the first time they were going to do a peace action together — a parade— Provost was apprehensive at first. After riding in the truck with the kids, she was hooked, Conley said.

While Provost had been active with 4-H and the Catholic church, she was never really an activist until her sister pushed her into it, Conley said.

“She was unique in a way, the way she attracted people to her,” Conley said.

Mary Ann Cashin first met Provost when they started at Cathedral High School in 1947. She said they hung out downtown on Thursday nights when Eddie Guenard would have his popcorn machine outside and they could joke with the beat cop, Bernie O’Connell. They dated boyfriends together and were the maids of honor at each other’s weddings.

“We went through everything together ... It was kind of hard when were we raising our families … but we always stayed in touch,” Cashin said.

She said she’s going to miss her conversations and weekly visits with Provost.


“We’re all going to miss her so much,” she said.

Jan Provost holds up a poster board with newspaper clippings about the U.S. Navy shutting down its ELF sites surrounded by fellow Grandmothers for Peace members, from left, Mary Lou Perham, Karen Barschdorf, Pauly Edmunds and Donna Howard. (Submitted photo)

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