KILMARNOCK—Jane M. Towner died February 24, 2020, at her home in Kilmarnock at the age of 88. She was born in Chicago, Ill., on January 19,1932.
A few years later she moved with her parents and sister to Davenport, Iowa, where she grew up. During her lifetime, she lived in many places with her own family including: Sidon, Lebanon; New Haven and North Haven, Connecticut; Jerusalem, Israel; Princeton, New Jersey; Oxford, England; Dubuque, Iowa; Tubingen, Germany; Richmond; and ultimately Kilmarnock in Northumberland County.
She has a B.A. from Iowa State University in child development and taught high school students for several years in Sidon, Lebanon, at a girls boarding school. She also has an M.A. from Yale Divinity School in Christian education; and a B.S from VCU in health care administration. She taught health care administration at MCV and was a founding officer of the Hospice Program at St. Mary’s Hospital in Virginia.
While teaching in Sidon, Lebanon, in her mid-20s, she met and married W. Sibley “Sib” Towner, also a teacher in Sidon at the neighboring Gerard Institute. Married for 61 years, the couple has two daughters, Ann and Hope. Also surviving are a sister, Carol Johnson-Miller; a sister-in-law, Karen Slotta; and five nieces and nephews.
In 1985 she moved to the Northern Neck, with her husband Sib Towner, to assume a job as the first vice president of Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury (RWC). During the past 35 years in the Northern Neck, she made numerous contributions that have had a lasting positive impact on the future of the Northern Neck. These are a few of her achievements:
With Jane’s energy and determination, along with her husband Sib and others, a public recreational and conservation area was created at Hughlett Point and Dameron Marsh in Northumberland County by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. As a founding member of the conservation area, she continued as president of the citizen monitoring group and as a Stewardship Volunteer for the next seven to eight years.
Jane spearheaded efforts to preserve, restore and reuse the one-room Shiloh School (1906) in Northumberland County. She was instrumental in listing the school on the National Register of Historic Places and successfully completed a grant application for restoration/preservation of the old school house and its use for a variety of ongoing community and educational programs. She was a longtime board member, past president, vice-president, secretary, program/fund-raising coordinator and newsletter editor for Northumberland Preservation Inc. (NPI) Shiloh School.
In 2004, Jane co-founded the Rappahannock Institute for Lifelong Learning (RILL) under the auspices of the Rappahannock Community College/Educational Foundation., Inc. (RCC / EFI) She served on the EFI’s board of directors for 10 years. In 2011 an RILL scholarship was established in her honor.
Jane was also a founding member of the Northern Neck Land Conservancy, as well as the first vice-president, and long-time member of the board of directors.
As a board member of the Northumberland County Historical Society, Jane was instrumental in the restoration of the Old Jail in Heathsville, raising funds for the structure’s rehabilitation, as well as for various community and informational programs.
She developed and implemented, through Interfaith Church Resource Services, a micro-enterprise program in the Northern Neck to assist fledgling small businesses with matching grant funds to start a new business.
Jane also served on the board of directors of the Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck Community Services Board for several years.
Throughout her life she was committed to giving to others and to the preservation of local historical and natural resources. She was passionate about nature, landscaping, native plants, writing, wildlife and art. She loved to travel, especially when it involved interaction with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds with the specific intent of building relationships and fostering understanding. Her family, friends and others in the community adore her and have gained so much from her knowledge and insight. She was kind, sweet, generous, smart, strong, courageous, straightforward, and accepting of everyone.
A “Celebration of Life and Faith” will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmarnock.
Memorial gifts may be sent to: a nonprofit of choice; the RCC/EFI at P.O. Box 923, Warsaw, VA, 22572; Northumberland Preservation, Inc. (Shiloh School) P.O. Box 65, Wicomico Church, VA 22579; RWC Foundation, 132 Lancaster Drive, Irvington, VA 22480.
Other suggestions include the Hospice Program of Virginia; the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for the ongoing conservation and maintenance of Hughlett Point; the Northern Neck Land Conservancy; and St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmarnock.