Jane Whitmer

Jane Whitmer was her usual playful self, wearing a blonde wig when she was honored as one of Salida’s “Women Who Rock” in a celebration May 11, just 19 days before her death.

The death of Jane Whitmer has left a void in the community she served and especially in the hearts of the family and friends who were closest to her.

She and her husband, Ron Ferris, moved to Salida in 1999, and she quickly became involved in many aspects of the community. Working with children and families was a priority. She loved people.

Whitmer died at age 69 at home on May 30, just 19 days after being honored as one of Chaffee County’s “Women Who Rock.”

Sheila Veazey said, “Jane was a special friend. I adored her and her effortless ability to be full of life, intention and joy. She listened with patience, laughed from her gut and had a killer creativity. Her playful nature cultivated a magnetism. We played with gusto, ran with heart and danced our socks off.

“Jane created a life with strong connections with coworkers, friends and family. In her presence you felt heard, safe and celebrated. My heart is broken, yet I bow my head with appreciation to have experienced the bliss of being her friend.”

Ashley Reynolds, 18, one of Whitmer’s younger friends, said, “Jane was my family therapist. She worked with my family for over 10 years, and she was my biggest inspiration and my light.”

Lawton Eddy said Whitmer was her best friend for 20 years.

“We moved to Salida the same month and year in 1999,” Eddy said. “Our lives overlapped in lots of ways. I could list so many adventures, but the main thing that stands out is her amazing capacity for personal relationships with so many people and being a positive force for so many.

“She was always curious and brought a sense of amazement to everyone she met. She wanted to know about you and had a gift of making people feel supported. The gift I got from her is that when I’m with someone I want to be truly present to them. That brings so much joy.”

Ashley (Shovald) Riegle, Sierra Vista, Arizona, knew Whitmer when she (Riegle) was in high school working on the Salida Youth Advisory Council.

“Jane was an incredible human being,” Riegle said. “She was an invaluable resource and sounding board for our council. She had a way of honoring our thoughts and opinions at a point in life when adults often have a challenging time relating to teenagers. She will be deeply missed.”

Brock Oyler said, “I worked with Jane on a couple of community projects. Her energy was a bright source of light that shined with both passion and compassion. She was fiercely courageous, yet at the same time kind and gentle. Jane definitely helped make the world a better place than she found it. She will always be an inspiration to me.”

Denny Radabaugh was Whitmer’s spiritual partner, sharing traditions with her in a Buddhist group and discovering common interests in poetry.

“I shared a new poem with her every day that I could, starting in late February until she passed,” he said.

“We were both volunteers with the jail program, visiting inmates, and in the last few months I told her I had a confession. She said, ‘Goody, I love confessions.’ I said when I met her I didn’t think she was for real because I didn’t think anyone could be that positive and genuinely delighted with everyone she met.

“She saw the humanity of each person. She touched a lot of lives. Her ultimate happiest place was with family. There are literally thousands of people who were touched and changed by her. I was honored to be her friend.”

Jennifer Dempsey of Salida Circus said, “I knew of Jane before moving to Salida. She was friends with my mom and Kent (Haruf), and she was one of the first friends I met when we moved here in 2007. When I met her I knew she was going to be our Madame McTilder, a circus character who has been in our company for a long time.

“Apart from the circus, what I love about her is her hilarious humility. There was nothing you couldn’t talk to her about. She was nonjudgmental. She knew and embraced her own foibles in such a loving way that when you were around her, you knew you were in a safe place.”

Gayle Anne Dudley said, “I knew Jane for as long as she and Ron were in Salida. Her joyful, caring, loving and positive spirit inspired and inspires me. We danced together on many occasions, and I remember her saying more than once, ‘We gotta keep on dancing.’ I think she is.”

Whitmer’s husband, Ron Ferris, said, “Jane changed the lives of many people. The amount of love and the huge number of people who have come to me and said she had a huge impact on their lives shows that. She was one of a kind, who loved and remembered everyone she met. She was always giving herself, especially to those in need or at risk. She never expected anything but love in return and that she got tons of.”

Services for Jane Whitmer will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Salida SteamPlant ballroom.

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