article and photos by Amy Haggerty
Having a great neighbor is important when you live in the country, and Jane James is one who can find a way to brighten the day. She lives by the motto on her license plate: “Be cheery.”
Jane and husband Lee moved from the Munith area to Stockbridge in 1996, choosing a 165-acre farm just outside of town. Jane considers this move one of the highlights of her life and says country life gives her a purpose to get moving every day and keep busy.
She turned 94 years old in March, and longevity runs in her family. Her four siblings are still living: Duane, 96; Bob, 92; Bev, 90 and Ann is 85. Both their sets of grandparents lived well into their 90s, and their mother lived to be 99.
Jane grew up in the Munith area and attended Katz School until graduation. In 1943, she went on to nurse’s training at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. Back then, Jane said, “There were only three jobs a female could have, a teacher, nurse or secretary.”
Jane chose to become a nurse and lived at the academy in a boarding school during her training.
After school, she met Lee in 1948 at a Bartlett’s Resort dance at Pleasant Lake. She was only 22 when they married. The couple first lived in Munith where Jane survived the remodeling of their home with three little boys and no kitchen. She called that a highly stressful time in her life. They were married for 62 years.
The couple had three children, and she is proud to say each of their sons attended college and grew up to become successful. Tom, the eldest, is now retired and lives in the state of Wyoming. He returns home to the farm every Christmas and summer with wife Joan. They work daily on the farm assisting Jane with chores.
Middle son Dave and wife Nancy also come for visits once a year. They live in Riverton, Wyoming.
Youngest son Bob currently lives on the farm with Jane and employed at MSU working toward a degree in computer science. His goal is to continue working at the university as an instructor in the computer science field. Jane said it’s been very helpful having her son there to keep her company and help with projects around the farm.
Through the years, Jane has had many interests and hobbies, and among her favorites are vegetable and flower gardening. Visiting with Jane is always a treat, because her flower gardens are spectacular. She calls them her “therapy.”
Of the many changes during her lifetime, Jane appreciates caller ID as an awesome invention. “It’s nice to know who’s calling and when to answer,” she said.
Jane also talked about when Michigan 106 was blacktopped from Stockbridge to Jackson. Lots of people moved into the country and could still enjoy the benefits and amenities of city life, she said.
She also marveled over a friend who brought out a drone and flew it over the farm and took photos of the property.
Jane is an inspiration to her friends, family and neighbors. She never complains and always has a smile on her face. She doesn’t watch much TV, but listens to music and the news.
Her secrets to a living a long life? “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “keep a positive attitude.”
If pressed to give advice, she recommends everyone “have a daily purpose and make a list of things you want to accomplish, and don’t forget to pray.”
“Eat healthy, accept what comes your way, don’t get too plugged into technology, get up off that couch and stay active.” She smiled.