It’s been a wonderful life for Jill June.

The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland retired last month after 30 years as the head of the organization. In her tenure with Planned Parenthood, June saw the organization through multiple mergers, consolidations and expansions, all of which resulted in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the organization that today operates 21 health centers across four states.

The belief that her work has made a difference in the lives of others is what has made every day both wonderful and worthwhile to June.

“My work has always been very important to me for both individuals and their families,” June said. “When families are healthy, society benefits from that.”

June, 67,  joined the organization in 1985, when it was still Planned Parenthood of Mid-Iowa. She moved to Iowa in the late 1960s, having grown up Pennsylvania. Even in those early years, when she worked in rural Iowa, she managed federal dollars for programs that focused on family planning services for women and children. After meeting her husband, John Twedt, she decided to make her home in Iowa permanently.

Fred Hubbell, a retired insurance executive and local philanthropist, was part of the search committee that interviewed June and offered her the position at Planned Parenthood.

“The job required a lot of energy and she had that,” Hubbell said. “She’s intelligent, had the experience and was very supportive of Planned Parenthood’s (mission).”

The organization’s mission is what drew in June, who cites inspiration from Anne Frank and the words the young woman penned prior to her concentration camp death in 1945.

“I read her diary, and she talked about the great adversity in her life and hiding out from the Nazis, but she still believed that you can change the world,” June said. “She was still thrilled by that aspect that you could make the world a better place. I saw Planned Parenthood as an opportunity to carry out the kind of thing that Anne Frank’s words inspire.”

In 1998, June led Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit against the city of Bettendorf to open a clinic providing family planning services, including medical and surgical abortion options, to women in the Quad Cities. After a judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, June stayed in the Quad Cities, living out of her recreational vehicle so she could oversee construction and meet with donors and lawyers. 

She was nearly arrested in 2002 after she refused to disclose confidential patient information to prosecutors in Storm Lake who were trying to find the mother in their investigation of the death of an abandoned newborn. The case received national attention, and as a result, June was honored as one of Ms. magazine’s Women of the Year. She also played an integral role in creating the telemedicine delivery system that expanded medication abortion to women in rural Iowa.

Hubbell, who has continued to work with June over the years in different capacities through Planned Parenthood, said June grew both the size and scope of the organization, increasing its reach and defending its mission.

“She’s been a stalwart, courageous defendant of patient rights,” Hubbell said. “(Planned Parenthood) is not the easiest place to work, so it’s great to have a leader like Jill who doesn’t get intimidated and is also ready to defend her staff, keep them safe, and allow them to do their work.”

As she headed into retirement, June said she’s always lived a balanced life, and has made it a priority to spend time with her family. Retirement will give her more time to do that, she said. She also plans to read, write and spend time in her garden, as well as to hit the campaign trail for candidates who share her beliefs and values. To those who want to stay in touch with June, she encourages them to look her up on Facebook.

“If you watch me there, you’ll see I have all kinds of different projects I’m working on,” June said “‘What a Wonderful World’ is a favorite song I like to sing around the house, because the world I’ve lived in has been a joy to me.”