Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grandma Jane: February 20, 1916 - December 10, 2010

Baby Ian and Grandma Jane
Jane Alexander Barker - Grandma Jane to Danny, Ian, Jennie and 12 other grandchildren - died on December 10, 2010 in Monterey, California. I will remember her fondly for her sunny disposition, her energy and determination, and her love for her large family and their devotion to her.

Jane was born in New York City.  Her family moved frequently, spending time in Kansas City, MO, Miami Beach, FL, New Orleans, and then Orlando, FL.  She married Roger Barker, "Grandpappy" to all those grandchildren, in 1939. Her life was filled with both sorrow and joy. Her third child, Jimmy, drowned when he was 16 months old. Her brother Elliot and his wife died in a plane crash a few years later, leaving behind two boys who Jane and Roger adopted into their large family.

Even with six children, Jane was an inveterate volunteer. She was a girl scout leader for 16 years and president of the "pink ladies" at Orange memorial Hospital in Orlando. One of her proudest accomplishments was establishing a day care center for single mothers and low-income families at her church.

Jane had deep roots in Michigan. In 1926 her father purchased a cottage on Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan where she spent summers as a child and came back again and again until her last visit two summers ago. Her beloved Tanglewood cottage was where she felt most at home.

Jane had many enthusiasms including knitting, needlepoint, sewing, weaving and embroidering. She was an avid reader, often sharing murder mysteries, historical novels, and seamy potboilers with her eldest son (who is also my husband). She became a computer geek, amazing one of her granddaughters with her ability to set up a new computer system on her own and her insistence that she have a decent internet connection before she moved to California at the age of 90 to live with her daughter. She also wrote three self-published memoirs in the 1990's: a memoir of her own life, a history of her husband's family, and remembrances of Wildwood Harbor on Walloon Lake.

Jane Barker was a survivor. With her family, she survived the 1926 hurricane that swept over Miami beach by getting up on furniture as water flooded under the kitchen floor. She later survived a tornado which struck the Georgia town where she went to college. She survived over 40 years of smoking cigarettes and then gave them up cold-turkey. She leaves us with her stories about her mother and father, her grandmother, various aunts and uncles, her numerous friends and acquaintances, and all the lessons that can be learned from a long life, well lived.

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