Marion Jane (Palmer) Jewell (“Jane”) passed away peacefully at Brandon Woods retirement community on December 16, 2020.
Jane was born on March 21, 1922 in El Paso, Texas to Howell S. Palmer and Phala Mae (Walker) Palmer.
In her “autobiography” written at age 16, Jane describes a happy early childhood with her beloved older brother and loving parents. Later events, including her brother’s passing and mother’s extended hospitalization, made life more difficult, but Jane did not lose her optimism or desire for self-improvement. Indeed, her autobiography states that it was written because she had been “thinking over the early part of my life to learn what mistakes I have made, what pleasure I have been to my acquaintances, and what changes I would make in my life if I knew then as much as I believe I do now.” The autobiography notes that she was “planning to become a journalist, but I often think of being a missionary.” Teenaged Jane meticulously noted that if, indeed, she became a journalist she would have to be careful to steer clear of “racketeers and politicians offering bribes.”
After graduating from Waco High School, Jane attended Baylor University for one year, where, as she described it, she majored in “having a good time.” She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, serving as a telephone switchboard operator in Naples, Italy and Algiers, Algeria. She became lifelong friends with many of her fellow WACs. Despite the seriousness of the undertaking, it seems there was some time for lighter moments. Jane fondly recalled visiting the Isle of Capri, turning down a date with the actor John Garfield, hitching a ride in a military vehicle with Italian soldiers (who kindly offered her the front seat), and being in a group that was blessed by Pope Pius XII at the Vatican.
Jane met Jack Jewell, a soldier from Wellsville, Kansas, at a USO dance in Ft. Worth, Texas. Jack was intrigued enough to send a note to Jane at her place of work, but had not caught Jane’s name properly, addressing the envelope not to Jane Palmer, but to “Jean Parker.” Luckily, Jane’s friend who worked in the mailroom at the office knew Jane had met a young man at the dance, put two and two together, and correctly surmised that the envelope must have been intended for Jane. Jane and Jack married on May 25, 1946 in Dallas Texas and celebrated a 65-year-long marriage prior to Jack’s passing in 2011.
During Jack’s 31-year career in the army, the family moved over a dozen times to assignments in the U.S. and abroad. Through the years, Jane shared her lifelong passion for learning with her six children and introduced them to museums, plays, movies, and two world’s fairs.
After Jack’s retirement from the army, the family returned to Lawrence. Jane not only became active with several groups, she returned to her formal studies at KU, receiving a B.A. in Human Development & Family Life in 1980.
Jane had an enduring love of flowers and flower arranging and was a member of the Green Thumb Garden Club. She volunteered for many years at the Plymouth Church thrift shop and with the Lawrence Aquahawk swim team. She enjoyed a multi-decade participation in the Ladies Literary League. She was also a 20-year volunteer reader for the Kansas Audio Reader, having chosen this organization because her brother had lost his sight due to a brain tumor at a young age.
Jane was strongly committed to understanding and helping people from other cultures. She and her family enjoyed a friendship with a German family they met in Frankfurt during 1950s. That friendship continues to this day, having spanned more than three generations. She and Jack also provided a home for a Japanese graduate student while she studied at KU in the 1980s. They also served as a surrogate family to a Saudi Arabian family that lived in Lawrence for five years while the husband/father pursued his Ph.D. at KU.
She was a prolific letter writer and loved sewing. She also loved playing games such as Monopoly, Parcheesi, Dominoes, and Rummikub. Well into her 90s she was not only competitive at these games, but would regularly prevail against her children and grandchildren, without taking the games, or herself, too seriously.
Jane loved to be active and healthy, often walking up and down the Ninth Street hill when the family lived on Sunset Drive, and trekking with their dog on their hilly property south of Lawrence during their retirement years. Her teenage autobiography reports that she walked up the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty in 1935. Much later, she hiked at the Grand Canyon in her fifties, climbed Mt. Fuji with Jack in her late fifties, and climbed Diamond Head in Honolulu several times, including twice in her eighties. No one knows for sure where her good health came from, but she never drank and she never swore (although, full disclosure, she was once overheard saying “hells bells” while falling down the stairs in her fifties; luckily she was fine).
Jane was a devoted Christian. She attended Baptist churches as a child and was a proud member of both Plymouth Congregational Church for many years and later the First United Methodist Church.
Jane was an eternal optimist. Even as she experienced many difficulties caused by falls and other health issues in her later years, when asked how she was doing, she would invariably answer with some version of “I’m doing great! I have had a wonderful life – what could I possibly complain about?” and then go on to talk with pride about her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Jane is survived by two daughters, Kathy Schilmoeller (Gary), Orono, Maine and Glee, Kona, Hawaii; three sons, Bill, Jim (Kristi), and Glenn (Stephanie), Lawrence, Kansas; eight grandchildren, Matt, Brian, Kitley, Kelly, Jake, Shannon, Zoe, and Hunter; and four great grandchildren, Corin, Logan, Zachary, and Malcolm.
Jane was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Jack; a son, John Frederick; and her brother, Howell S. Palmer, Jr.
The family is planning to hold a celebration of life at a later time. Jane’s remains will be interred at the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made in Jane’s name to Kansas Audio Reader and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.