Blessed by Miss Jane’s example

Published 1:35 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

All my growing up years, she was Miss Jane the kindergarten lady. She was also daughter to Mama Lalah; wife to Mr. Martin, the fireman; and mother to playmates Polly, Liz and Robbie.

Her house was not directly on East Park Avenue, but just a stone-throw away. In fact, I could see it from our front yard so the kids living there were part of the Park Avenue gang.

For many years, one side of that house was home to the Jack and Jill Kindergarten, which several of my siblings attended. I remember the tall pole in the front yard that became a maypole for kindergarteners to dance around every spring.

There were also swings and other assorted park-like playthings in the yard. I thought the Martin kids were the luckiest children in the world because all they had to do was walk out the front door to be in their own playground.

Miss Jane, whose was really Mrs. Jane Foreman Martin, was so kind to us when we strayed into her yard to swing or play chase with her kids and any others who happened to be available at the time. My memory is of her always with a smile on her face.

When the Martins built a bigger house not far from their old one, I was kind of sad to see them move. I loved the almost dollhouse quality of the little house that was both a home and a kindergarten. Even though for years it was rented by other folks, it was and always will be the Martins’ house.

Later, when kindergarten became part of the school system, Miss Jane moved from teaching kids to helping grownups have beautiful homes. She worked as manager of Danley Furniture and later owner of Martin Furniture.

I loved walking through those stores seeing the way she placed furniture to make a beautiful setting. I think she was a bit of an artist at heart, something her youngest daughter, Liz, inherited.

Over the years, I’ve run into Miss Jane, sometimes shopping with her daughters. It amazed me to see how little she seemed to change. She aged so gracefully and was as lovely as a “mature” Southern lady as she was when she was younger.

In fact, if you wanted a picture of Southern grace, it was Jane Martin. Although, I sensed under that sweetest was a strength that made her a rock when someone needed her.

The playground equipment hasn’t been in the yard for years. When the maypole came down is lost to my memory. Polly, the Martins’ oldest child, lives in the kindergarten house now. Miss Jane sold the new house they built and moved into Mama Lalah’s house next to Polly’s house.

A while back, Mother told me she had a visit with Miss Jane when Liz stopped by to see my brother. Mother called to tell me about it and her first words were, “She hasn’t changed a bit; still such a pretty woman.”

I heard Miss Jane suffered a fall and was in the hospital. Later, I heard she wasn’t doing well. Sadly, the news came that she was gone.

My first thoughts were about her children. How sad they must be to lose such a loving presence in their lives.

“But how blessed they are that she was a presence in their lives,” I whispered. “How blessed we all were to know her.”

As I get older and the people that populated my childhood pass from this world, I realize how much of a role they played in shaping me as a person. Our parents weren’t the only ones setting an example for us to follow. No, we, I, learned about how to be a good adult from the fine adults I was around as a child.

Mrs. Jane Foreman Martin was, as her obituary said, “… a woman of love, grace and faith…”

How thankful and blessed I was to witness the example she set with her life.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.