Recently celebrated and honored as one of the “Women Who Rock” Salida, Jane Whitmer, aged 69, died in her home on Thursday, May 30th, 2019, joyfully surrounded by her beloved husband, her cherished daughters, their partners, and her beautiful grandson.
When Jane received the results of her final CT scan on May 16th she knew she had very little time left to live. She vowed to make her last weeks the best ever, and she delivered her promise a thousand times over with love, generosity, her indomitable spirit, humor, wisdom, glitter, costume parties, and fearlessness. She approached her own death as she had lived her life—with thoughtfulness, intention, curiosity, and keeping her beginner’s mind wide open.
Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jane fell in love with Colorado on camping trips with her family, time spent at youth camp, and later in college at the University of Northern Colorado. She returned to Lincoln after college where she raised her two daughters, Ellie and AnnieLaurie Erickson. She was dedicated to working with young children, particularly those marginalized by society, and she taught Head Start, kindergarten, and first grade. She co-created the SRI/St. Elizabeth Child Development Center, which became Gallup Child Development Center. She was later appointed the Early Childhood Consultant for Lincoln Public Schools. She holds two master’s degrees from University of Nebraska–Lincoln in Child Development and Educational Administration. She is the co-author with Helen Raikes of Beautiful Beginnings, a curriculum for infants and toddlers.
Jane valued connection with people above all else, and she made it her life’s work in every way possible. She brought her smiling encouragement and trust in the miraculous to everything she did, and she shone her light on everyone, with no exception. In 1999, when she moved to Salida, Colorado with her husband Ron Ferris, she quickly became involved in child and parent organizations and their myriad issues. She was on the first Montessori School Board and served on the Kids’ Campus Board that later became the Boys and Girls Club. Jane was especially proud to be part of the team that created Nurturing Parenting and Family and Youth Initiatives, known locally as FYI. After serving as the manager of the Nurturing Parenting Program for 13 years, she began the job she called her life’s best, working as a contractual Parent Coach for families involved with Child Protection Services, which she continued to do until a few months before her death.
Jane was committed to the arts in all forms, in her own endeavors and those of her daughters, who are both established artists. She loved her participation in the Salida Circus, was a founding member of the River Tribe Drum and Dance Troupe, acted in many plays, and danced in every dance, whether in a dance studio, the park, on stage, or in a duckie on the river. She was ready for any party, come monsoon or blizzard. She believed in the joy of play, and she allotted it her great respect. She loved and cared deeply for the Salida community that she embraced as her own, and she believed Salida was where she was able to fully become her authentic self. Jane’s love of her community manifested in service, boundless energy, enthusiasm, and a sincere dedication to finding the joy in every occasion of living, however hidden, including death.
Jane was honored to serve on the Salida Sangha Board, she was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Salida, she volunteered with the Child Protection Team, Communities That Care, and the SOS Committee at First Presbyterian, and she served on the Marijuana Excise Tax Advisory Board. She especially loved teaching yoga to women inmates through her work with the Mindfulness in the Jail program.
Travel, another of Jane’s passions, included Thailand, Kenya, Sudan, China, Patagonia, and her favorite, India. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for her 50th birthday and tap danced across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on her 60th. Her Salida friends gave her a parade down F Street for her 69th birthday followed by a jam-packed dance party and flashmob. She had even bigger plans for her 70th. She loved backpacking with her daughters every summer and took many river trips with her husband, sharing his love of rivers throughout the West, all the while knowing there was no place like her home, Salida. Those who knew Jane understand she is irreplaceable. They also know they must continue her work of spreading joy at every opportunity and shining light in every direction, in service to the humanity Jane fervently believed in. Jane is survived by her husband, Ron Ferris, her daughters and their partners, Ellie Erickson and Lindsay Smith of Austin, Texas, AnnieLaurie Erickson, Patch Somerville, and grandson Sonny May Somerville of New Orleans, Louisiana, her siblings Annie Laurie (Jerry) Schapmann, Amy Whitmer, Mae Whitmer, Dougal (Cindy) Whitmer, many nieces and nephews, and her chosen grandson Cooper Hodge of Salida.
Jane requested that anyone wishing to make a donation in her name will please do so to the Nurturing Parent program, 448 E. 1st Street, Room 166, Salida, CO 81201, or the Mindfulness in the Jail program, 211 F Street, Salida, CO 81201. Jane asked that rather than sending flowers to the family we each give ourselves a bouquet in her memory, as bright and colorful as possible. On line condolences may be sent to the family at lewisandglenn.com. Arrangements are with Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home. Celebrations of Jane Whitmer’s life are planned for later in the summer at the following location: Sunday August 4 @ 2 p.m. Salida Steam Plant Ballroom 220 West Sackett Avenue Salida, CO 81201
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