Jane Seaver Kirk
May 12, 1928 – May 22, 2018
Jane Seaver Kirk of Munsonville, NH died May 22, 2018 after a period of declining health. She celebrated her 90th birthday May 12.
The daughter of Howard Wesley Kirk and Ruth Mertela Seaver, Jane was born in Boston, MA in 1928. She grew up in Keene, NH and attended Keene High School, graduating in 1946. Jane attended Duke University, majoring in Sociology. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and to Phi Kappa Delta. She chaired Student YWCA volunteer efforts at the Edgemont Community Center, a Duke-owned facility for children from low-income families. She graduated from Duke in 1950.
The Korean War started about this time. General MacArthur had requested that sixty women be recruited by the American Red Cross to work with the troops in Korea. Jane, having been too young to serve in World War II, decided to join the ARC and go overseas. By the time the women were trained, the Chinese had engaged in their march southward in Korea and MacArthur was relieved of his command. So, the Red Cross sent their new recruits to various US bases in Japan.
Jane’s first assignment was at the 361st Station Hospital, Tokyo. Soon after arriving, she experienced her first very big earthquake! Eventually, all the women were reassigned to American airbases in Korea. Jane went to Kunsan or K-8 on the Yellow Sea where she was assigned to the 3d Bomb Wing, a B-26 Bomber group, night flying planes with a pilot and bombardier. The very first night she was there, Jane saw a bomber take off and crash into the Yellow Sea.
The return trip was made by sailing from Yokohama to San Francisco on the Gen. AE Walker. There were 5000 troops and six women on board. The trip took two weeks.
Jane’s next assignment was at the US Naval Hospital in New York City. She spent a year there, ultimately deciding that she did not have a “hospital personality” and preferred to work with groups. She decided to return to Korea for a year with Special Services, which had replaced the Red Cross at the various American bases.
During that time, Jane became very aware of the many orphanages that had sprung up in the country, and the great need the children had for clothing. She asked her mother to gather up some clothes for her. Her mother approached the task with her usual zeal and collected 5000 pounds of children’s clothes. The Kingsbury Corporation offered to build shipping crates for them. After the boxes were unloaded in Korea, a Korean man who worked for Jane took the lumber home and built himself a little house. He made a tin roof for it from flattened beer cans that he collected on the airbase.
Later that year, Jane was assigned to a MASH hospital in the 38th parallel area.
Upon returning to the states, Jane enrolled at Springfield College and was awarded a Master of Science degree in 1956 with a major in Community Organization and Group Work. She had no sooner accepted a position as Assistant Program Secretary at the Sloane House YMCA, in New York City, when the Red Cross contacted her to go to France to run one of their community centers there. Jane, being an ethical person, said that she was committed to stay in New York for two years, but, would consider an offer after that. (Also, Jane knew it would be years before a woman would be asked to head a YMCA.) She did get certified as a Senior YMCA Director before she left for Chaumont, France in October 1958 where she became the director of the Red Cross Center for the 41st Tactical Fighter Wing in Chaumont.
Although the Red Cross hired an interpreter for Jane, she understood enough French to know that how her words were being translated were not what she wanted done for work with her French staff. So, she decided to be brave and delve into her French that she had studied both at Keene High and Duke, and converse in French. Jane said that it made an immediate difference in getting the work done!
After a year in Chaumont, Jane was reassigned to be the director of the Red Cross Center in Kenitra, Morocco, where she was attached to the Air Force in Sidi Slamaine. Jane owned a Volkswagon Beetle and drove it from Chaumont to Morocco. She cut right across France to Biarritz, over the Spanish border to San Sebastian and straight down the middle of Spain, going through Madrid and Granada to Algercirus where she took the ferry boat to Tangier. The adventure took a week.
The assignment was Jane’s first experience juggling work and volunteer relationships with Arabs, French and Americans .Even in those days, the Center had to be surrounded by a high wall and she had to hire guards to protect the property. Morocco had become an independent country a few years earlier, so the political dynamics among the Arabs, the French and the Americans required considerable focus, adapting to whatever was the situation at the time.
Jane’s last assignment with the Red Cross with the 320th group in Evereux, France, 75 miles west of Paris, a base for US C-130 cargo planes.
Jane was aware that the YMCA had an Armed Services Department. Upon returning to the United States, and, having her YMCA credentials in order, she was hired to work at the Navy YMCA, Newport, RI. That started her Y career which lasted for 33 years, the last 20 years being as a national staff member. In 1965, she was sent to Omaha, Nebraska, the home of the Strategic Air Command, to start the first program for American military in a downtown YMCA. After completing that task, she returned to the east coast in 1969 to work at the Newark YMCA where she became director for fundraising, membership and public relations.
Her next YMCA move was as the first woman member of the Middle Atlantic Region YMCA staff, based near Philadelphia. Her work was as a field and organizational development person, working with YMCAs from Northern Virginia to Plattsburg, NY, on the Canadian border. Jane received specific training in problem solving for this position. The task was to visit a YMCA and in a few hours, figure out the problems and discuss possible solutions.
In 1972, Jane tried new territory and became the Executive Director for YWCA for the City of New York. The YW mostly focuses on fostering social issues involving women and girls. The Board of Directors was composed of 55 women and included women such as Mrs. JC Penney, Mrs. Thomas Watson and Mrs. Laurence Rockefeller.
After a couple of years, Jane decided that she was much more a YM person in philosophy and returned to the national staff, being assigned to the Northeast Region staff in Boston. She lived in Boston for twelve years at the Prudential Center. In the 1980s when the national Y was reorganized again and the Northeast Region office was closed, Jane was invited to join Campaign Associates, the capital fund raising arm of the YMCA. During that period, she conducted 27 feasibility studies and 13 capital campaigns in the United States and Canada, raising over $33 million dollars.
In 1991, Jane was named Deputy Director of the International Group of the YMCA of the USA and moved to Chicago where the Y headquarters are located. A primary responsibility was directing the National World Service Campaign, her first foray into annual fund raising. The previous year, $60,000 was raised and at the end of Jane’s first year, she raised over $1,000,000. The North American YMCA Financial Development Officers named her the Fund Raising Executive of the year.
At Jane’s YMCA retirement party on November 30, 1993, the National Executive, David Mercer, asked her to take a group of Americans to the World Alliance meeting to be held in London in July, 1994 which would include celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the YMCA in London. During those festivities, Jane and the group, along with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, attended a special service at Westminster Abbey in recognition of the founding of the YMCA, then, after the service, everyone walked over to the Queen’s Garden Party at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Jane purchased a home on Granite Lake in Munsonville in 1996. She pursued volunteerism and travel with equal passion. Between 1996 and her passing, Jane traveled to China, Brazil (where she traveled by canoe down the Amazon), the Ukraine, Holland, and Alaska, to name a few. She also participated in a rafting trip down the Salmon River in Idaho!
Jane may be best known locally for her energetic efforts to help underprivileged children in Cheshire County. She was a 26 year member of the Rotary Club of Keene and at one point she was assigned to administer a Rotary program that provided clothing to school-age children through a voucher program. Jane transformed the program into a personal shopping experience for the children and their families. She scheduled volunteers, who would descend upon JC Penney on a Saturday morning and meet the families. Jane loved to shop, and she believed that the expeditions afforded the children a learning experience, and afforded their parents some dignity. If a needy family lacked transportation, Jane would personally pick them up and drive them to the store. She was deeply moved by the plight of homeless children living in tents at local campgrounds, and children of incarcerated parents. Jane derived a great deal of satisfaction from her work with the program, which ultimately became known as Jane’s Kids. She was named a Paul Harris fellow, the highest honor that can be given to a Rotarian, by both the Rotary Club of Keene and the Elm City Rotary Club for her work with Jane’s Kids.
Jane was involved in many organizations, including: Trustee of Springfield College (30 years), Association of YMCA Professional Directors, Board of Trustees of the YMCA Retirement Fund (the first female employed officer to be elected to the Board) (10 years), National Association of YMCA Retirees Secretary (5 years), Northeast Delta Dental Board of Trustees (10 years) Nelson Board of Selectmen (12 years), Historical Society of Cheshire County Board of Directors (6 years), Granite Lake Association (20 years), Ashuelot Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (61 years), American Association of University Women (48 years), Eastern Star (36 years), Munsonville Ladies Group (21 years).
Jane is survived by her nieces, Emily Colson of Fayetteville, NC, Marilyn Shriver of Walpole, NH, grand-niece Aurora Hemingway, grand-nephew William Colson, both of Fayetteville, NC, grand-niece Phoebe Shriver, and grand-nephew Bennett Shriver, both of Walpole, NH.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, June 8, 2018 at 2 pm at the First Congregational Church, 15 Washington Street, Walpole NH.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Jane’s honor may be sent to Rotary Club of Keene, PO Box 126, Keene, NH 03431, for the Jane's Kids program.
- Memorial Service Friday, June 8, 2018
Jane Seaver Kirk
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May 25, 2018
Jane served on the Board of Directors for Delta Dental Plan of New Hampshire for 9 years. Jane was a delightful woman who had traveled much in her earlier days and I always enjoyed discussing some of her favorites places with her. She was also very smart and I always listened intently as she asked questions and shared her wisdom. She was a no nonsense, get to the heart of the matter type of person! She also served in an elected office for municipal government and since I had worked in government before, we had that in common too! It was rare that Jane needed advice, but when she did, she would ask me for my opinion about how to handle an issue. I very much enjoyed knowing Jane -- she had tremendous energy and zest for life! I haven't seen her in a few years, but will always remember how involved and engaged she was, and how much she enjoyed her life! This is what we mean by "a life well lived"!
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