In the winter of 1967, Jane and I met in a training class for Ozark Airlines Reservation Agents at Greater Peoria Airport. I graduated from high school the previous June. Jane was 13 months older and more mature. She had a boyfriend, Jim, serving in the military. While my immediate goals of fun, financial independence, and travel didn’t exactly match hers, they never interfered with our becoming friends.
Jane and Jim married Feb. 1, 1969. To thank me for helping serve the wedding cake, she gave me a Paper Mate ballpoint pen with a piggyback style refill. I used it for years. Eventually the refills were discontinued, but the pen remained in my desk as an instant reminder of happy times. This past March, I gave the pen to Jane as an heirloom with sweet memories.
While she and I both enjoyed our Ozark career, we “retired” to be stay-at-home Moms. Our personal interactions lessened as diapers and details increased. The defining trait of a genuine friendship is the ability to reconnect easily and gratefully even after years of not being together. We did so enthusiastically at the 25th wedding anniversary of our mutual friends Johnette and Dale. Johnette was also in that Ozark training class and we loved visiting and reminiscing.
I don’t remember ever having a disagreement with Jane, and likely her many friends would say the same. She was no pushover, but could disagree or take a stand without being disagreeable. She was a woman of integrity and deeply considered convictions. Her love for her husband, son and daughter, and grandchildren permeated her life. She lived with confidence, consideration, and well-defined priorities. Diligent about honoring her commitments, her actions reflected the gospel she embraced. She knew how to enjoy life and she enjoyed doing for others.
Jane was thoughtful about sending cards or notes for special occasions. They often arrived after the event, sort of a grand finale. Not sure if that was intentional or because she was running late, but it endeared her to me even more.
Our get-togethers became more frequent and the six of us, Jane, Johnette, and I with our husbands visited frequently and traveled together. Eventually we referred to those times as brouhahas, and one was always brewing.
We went sightseeing in Sedona; enjoyed a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan, and a December carriage ride in Chicago; cheered the Cardinals to victory in St. Louis; admired a delightful Norman Rockwell exhibit in Indiana; savored High Tea at the Drake Hotel; partied at each other’s houses various times, and cruised the Caribbean together. This past February we took a train ride to the Grand Canyon. We were planning a trip in September to Nevada and California, with plans underway for 2015. Always the company and conversations were as pleasurable as the scenery.
In June came the diagnosis. Jane mentioned previously about stomach discomfort. She was diagnosed with cancer, received chemotherapy to no avail, and her last days were at home cared for lovingly by family and Hospice. Jane (Joos) Hellrigel died Sunday, Aug. 24.
Even though we laughed and talked for hours whenever we were together, there are still stories to tell and topics to discuss. I am grateful she reminded me so poignantly through her personal journey that everyday is important and time on this earth for each person is finite. That’s essential to remember, not fearfully or sadly, but as motivation to use time with wisdom and joy.
Rest in peace, Jane. It was a privilege being your friend. Your influence makes me a better person. How blessed we were to have met in that class so many years ago. Thank you for the wonderful memories and know I will always miss and love you.