Remembering Jane Hancock
This past September, the NAMI Glendale family lost one of our founding members and past president, Jane Hancock. Jonée Shady, also a past president, shares her remembrances of Jane.
I am not a writer as she was but I can say that she has inspired me many times to write. I am approaching this piece as if I had been asked to speak at her memorial service or celebration of life instead of writing a tribute.
When I learned of Jane Hancock’s passing I was speechless. Hard for me since I make my living by speaking. I honestly thought this woman would live to be a hundred years old. And although she lived a mere 93 years old, I am still processing the fact that she is no longer with us. In order to understand my relationship with Jane and NAMI Glendale, I must recall how I first met this woman and what my memory serves me as my first impression of her.
I had been contacted by John Griffin, who was the NAMI Family Advocate at the DMH (who also left us about two years ago) asking me if I would be willing to teach a Family to Family class. He knew I had been recently trained and he had an opportunity to conduct a class at Kedren Community Mental Health. At that first class, only 4 people showed up and we really couldn’t start the course. Someone who was a member of NAMI San Gabriel Valley suggested we go to the support meetings at NAMISVG and NAMI Glendale to announce the class. So I headed out there and when I spoke at NAMI Glendale, most of the attendees were interested in signing up for the class. Jane Hancock was one of them, the NAMI Glendale President at the time, who suggested that we held the class there at Verdugo Mental Health Center Community room. Thus, was the beginning of a long affiliation with NAMI Glendale and more importantly, a beautiful friendship with Jane Hancock.
At the time, it was my understanding that Jane Hancock, Dorothy Meyer, Kay Connus, Elaine Kanashiro, and a few others whose names escape me, were the founding members of NAMI Glendale, then called Glendale NAMI, and had been hosting Share and Care for several years, meeting weekly on Tuesdays. They held speaker meetings once a month where her son Randy Hancock, a Glendale PD, often would come and speak. They published a monthly GAMIGram addressed and mailed by hand with the help of Kay Connus. Elaine made sure refreshments were at the speaker meetings. All these ladies were retired and so dedicated to this group.
A couple of years later, I received a call from Jane asking me if I would teach another F2F class. Another member, Nikki Davis, had been trained and needed a co-teacher. Of course, I said yes. Jane was surprised because I didn’t even ask when or where but I told her that I would clear my schedule and she just needed to tell me when and where. At the conclusion of that class, I was asked to start facilitating the support group in order to give Jane a break. And I soon thereafter became Glendale NAMI President.
Jane then informed me that the Presidency came with a President’s column that I was to write monthly. What? I am not a writer!! Jane continued to write for the GAMiGram, edit, and publish. She and her husband Fred continued to come to the support group meetings. Her son Richard had been stable for years but she felt it so important to give our members hope. She loved to tell everyone how here, all of us would be nodding our heads and that we were not alone. She was so proud of the fact that we met weekly where other affiliates met biweekly or even monthly. She was proud of the fact that Glendale NAMI with its 30 or so members at the time, raised $5000 so that we could participate in the first NAMIWalks at Irwindale Dam. We collected recyclables in order to do this so that we could participate because at that time, they needed seed money. She and her family, about 15 or so, would walk at every NAMIWalks until it moved to Grand Park, and most of the times, she would be one of the top team captains in our affiliate if not the county in fundraising.
Aside from her Mental Health Advocacy, Jane was an inspiration to many. At that first F2F class, I thought I had heard the name Jane Hancock through my public education teaching experience. I remember saying she was well known among English Teachers. Well I had mixed her up with another Jane who was a presenter on English learning. John Griffin assured me that Jane Hancock was just as famous. Well it happened to be true. I was at work attending a professional development for teachers and there was Jane presenting to HS teachers on how to get HS kids to write. I remember she was pushing 80 or so and as spunky as ever teaching us. She wrote a study guide for the state of California for the California Exit Exam in English. She hosted a writers group for UCLA Students and NAMI members. She also published a book about one of our members, Jungle Jenny in 2013; she was 86.
After her husband Fred died, she decided that she would continue to live it up, and she bought season tickets to Dodgers, Geffen Playhouse, Hollywood Bowl, Pasadena Playhouse, and Ahmanson.
And she was generous inviting many of us to attend with her. She made a point to see me in my performances when she could. We had breakfast in NYC when she was there seeing Hamilton. She traveled with her son Bob all over the country to see the Dodgers when they played in other stadiums, and she traveled abroad. She still attended meetings and supported NAMIWALKS. AND she recently bought a beautiful brand new BMW. Yes, she still drove and she knew how to use Facebook.
I am sure that there is much more I can say about this amazing women as I sit here watching the baseball playoffs. She sure wanted to see those Dodgers in the World Series and seems they are the team to beat this season. I attended so many games with her often NOT rooting for the Dodgers but we always had such a great time. My only regret is that I never made it to Descanso Gardens with her. We just kept putting it off as I thought we’d get to it eventually.
She will definitely be missed but not forgotten as her contributions to her family, friends and this affiliate will be hard to match.
In closing I will say to you, what you wrote to me when you signed my copy of “Jungle Jenny”
To Jane: “My NAMI friend, my teaching friend, my Dodger friend, my friend.”