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Jane English Wetherbee died peacefully and surrounded by her family in Stony Fork, PA on August 27, 2018, 9:08 pm, 12 days short of her 89th birthday. Independent and feisty to the end, Jane remained at home on her own terms: enjoying audio books of history and mystery, attending her flower beds and cats, and wandering the country roads with her family and friends.
Born in Corning, NY on September 8, 1929, Jane was the youngest of six children. The daughter of Robert “Deane” and Elizabeth “Bessie” Dwyer English. Between them, Deane and Bessie were educators and administrators of education throughout the Antrim and Wellsboro areas. They also ran the pre-civil war Steele family farm and raised their six children. Education and autonomy was a always a priority for both women and men, as it had been with their own parents, in eras when that was not a common focus. Jane developed a great love of story and history and with an eternal and prodigious memory for names and dates which she could weave into a story spanning generations, eventually bringing its connection back to the listener.
Jane attended Wellsboro High School, and after graduating from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania began her career as an elementary school art teacher. She spent numerous years traveling and teaching between small regional schools until she accepted a position with the Liberty Area School District where she taught art for thirty-five years. Her classroom often had a little mayhem, with children cutting paper sculptures, weaving pot holders and painting figments of their imaginations. She encouraged children to explore their projects and see what they alone could create. Jane found delight in the innocence and unexpected discovery of a small child with a pair of sheers and an unbridled curiosity. She always remained curious to her core and an eternal artist.
Divorced when her children were young, Jane moved back to her family home on Dean Hill, where she lived a total of forty years in the Steele home. She raised her five children on the 100-acre farm, along with the assistance of Hattie Wilcox Wilson, a former student of Jane’s, who lived part-time with the family for many years. An avid reader, Jane’s family often found her hiding behind a thick book of European or American history whenever opportunity afforded it. She kept television out of the house to encourage similar activities for her children. Watching the Andy Griffith Show was replaced with reading, continual art projects and exploring the nature and wilds of the mountain tops. The rambling house was always open to her children's friends and visiting relatives. Weekends were often spent visiting Jane’s cousins on the hill who enjoyed lively and competitive card games late into the night. Relatives from southern PA would travel up for weekend card playoffs. Over the years the groups evolved with better and lesser players, as cards was one territory Jane could show a level of snobbism. A player was often described based on skill level; if they were skilled or “a good cheat,” they made the games much livelier and worthier of pursuit.
Jane was dedicated to her family no matter where they lived. And after years of staying close to home, retirement and grown children afforded Jane the freedom to travel. She visited her daughters and grandchildren in California and Oregon often where she deeply loved the beauty of the coastlines, explored the riches of the west coast and developed strong relationships with her grandchildren and her two west coast daughters’ circles of friends.
Jane traveled to Ireland twice, enjoying the culture, lore and researching family history. Decades before Ancestory.com existed, Jane traveled with her two sisters and niece Cynthia English to research centuries of their family history gleaning information from small churches in Ireland. Later she would travel to the Mormon Temple and to dozens of storytellers and archives in between. Jane used her knack for historical knowledge to draw two family trees that span hundreds of years of births, deaths and sibling relationships, all from memory. Conversations regarding the past and how people of her life fit together often started with context such as “Robert in the parlor…” or “Robert in the cemetery…” so that the listener could follow the visual weave and didn’t have to rely on the same full names and dates that were so well known to her.
As a long-time member of three favorite local clubs, The Wellsboro Historical Society, gave her an outlet for her deep knowledge of regional history; The Art Club fostered her persistent desire for artistic exploration among like-minds and TOPS (social club) provided an excuse for a delicious weekly lunch and chat about hypothetical weight loss. In her last four years of life, having been diagnosed with cancer and deciding against treatment, her doctor would joke that she was becoming legendary in the hospital circle for being the only cancer patient on the TOPS weight-loss regime, which she loved.
Jane found wandering was a cure for most maladies. Days spent exploring new dirt roads throughout the state that she and her friends or family hadn't known previously, guessing at the outcome, seeing how lost they might get or if who knew the area best never ceased to be enjoyable. Finding unknown eccentric shops, old churches, new views and beautiful farms were often the reward. At other times the reward came to her. Jane, a cat whisperer, could sit on a porch in the evening under the stars and find yet another feral or abandoned cat that would decide to slowly and steadily make her their keeper.
She is survived by her son Dana Wetherbee (Wellsboro) and daughters Mary Wetherbee (Oregon), Rosalind Statts (Wellsboro), Michele Wetherbee (California), and Kate “Dave Grebbs” Wetherbee (Morris); 8 grandchildren: Bryce and Cheyenne Wetherbee (Wellsboro); Shawn Job and Jennifer Leckey (Wellsboro); Alex and Maresa “Cody Pruden” Giovannini (California) and Tobin and Simone Gutermuth (California); and 9 great-grandchildren: Khalysta, Athens, Olympia, Ambrosia, Calypso, Achilles, Osias, and Basilia Leckey; and Weston Groover. She is predeceased by siblings: Catherine (Kay) Whartenby, Donald English, Edward English, James English, Elizabeth (EA) English.
A gathering to celebrate Jane’s life will be held at the Stony Fork Baptist Church (2831 Stony Fork Rd) this Saturday, September 1. The visitatiom will take place from from 10-11 am, Memorial service at 11 am, followed by a lunch for all. In lieu of flowers, memorials can also be made to the Jane Wetherbee Scholarship Fund, which supports an annual scholarship for a Wellsboro High School senior pursuing the arts in college. Mailed to: The Wellsboro Art Club, 38 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901.
Jane Wetherbee Scholarship Fund
The Wellsboro Art Club, 38 Water Street, Wellsboro PA 16901