Today I and some members of my family conducted a memorial service for my mother. Jane Stoneman. Streaming video of the event is available via mtsinaicemetery.com . . . and there is this obituary, written by me and my Aunt Diane.
Jane Paula Householder Bowers Stoneman, whose Hebrew name was Sarah, passed into the Great Beyond after a long battle with enough medical issues to fill a 37-page volume of poetry. (That is not hyperbole. She kept a journal of her medical woes and gave a copy to every doctor who treated her.) She was eighty-five years old.
Ms. Stoneman, known variously as Jane or Janie or Sister or Granny or Mama Jane, started life on January 3rd, 1935, in Los Angeles, California, daughter of Paul Lester Householder, mechanic and ne'er-do-well, and Caroline Helen Susan Wright, drama teacher and women's-group mainstay. Jane lost Caroline, a victim of hypertension-induced kidney failure, in 1950, and to her went the task of being both sister and mother to her brother George, five years her junior. A year later Jane met her husband-to-be, Harold Price Bowers, and their romantic involvement led to marriage on February 16, 1952. Sons Harold Jr., Gary and Brian were all born in the mid-50s, and in 1958 the Bowers family moved to Arizona, first to Phoenix and then to Glendale.
It was in Glendale, on Pasadena Avenue, that Jane formed lifelong friendships with neighbors Eileen Mier and Lolita "Lolly" Cook. They were the Three Musketeer-Ladies of Pasadena Avenue, and with their staunch liberal stance raised more than one ruckus with Jane's conservative husband Harold Sr. One war story included the clunking of a beer bottle against Harold's head.
Jane was a firm believer in education, both academically and with real-world issues, and she raised her sons with a zero-tolerance policy regarding bigotry and racism; but she also did her best to help her sons discover their individual talents and preferences. She was involved in school-related activities such as the Parent-Teacher Association, and on at least one occasion volunteered to help with a special-day classroom program.
Jane's and Harold's marriage ended abruptly in the early 80s, but Jane found the love of her life with Martin L. Stoneman, patent lawyer and theorist. The two of them kicked off a thirty-year odyssey of mutual interest and passion with a trip up the East Coast in early autumn in their beloved Winnebago, which they had christened (irony intended) The Bagel. Their journey also took them to the remote wonderland of Havasupai on the west end of the Grand Canyon, and to various symposia, notably WHIM (Western Humor and Irony Membership). Their soul connection continued until Marty's death in 2014.
Jane was a "frequent flyer" of thrift and antique stores, with an eye for a bargain, and she was an avid watcher of Antiques Roadshow. Of her love for such things, sister Diane recalls: "My sister was a collector. She collected mostly the past, whether it was a beautiful antique chair or vintage jewelry. She loved the stories behind them, where they came from and who she may have intended to have the item." And of Jane as a matriarch Diane says, "She shared stories and facts about our families. Above all else in good times and bad there was always love. One thing she never held on to was past grudges or hatred. She was kind and so very intelligent and also open to new ideas, with willingness to see the other's perspective. I will miss my sister Jane dearly but so very happy that God gave me a sister to look up to and to learn from."
Son Gary recalls: "Once Mom read a column by William F. Buckley that was a hatchet job on the movie EASY RIDER. She wrote Buckley a letter of outraged protest that included proof that Buckley had not sat through the entire movie. To her intense satisfaction, she received a typewritten postcard from Buckley about a week later, wherein he began 'Dear Mrs. Bowers, You catch me up short…' and confessed that she was right to criticize him for basing his column on a false premise. Of the last year of Jane's life, Gary says, "Mom was never the same after my brother Brian, her principal caregiver, died. But she faced that last stage of her life bravely and with undenied cheer. I had had a ritual with her where I'd say 'here comes a kiss on the top of your head,' and she would helpfully bow her head for the kiss. But with the pandemic, and physical proximity impossible, we adapted our routine, and I'd say, 'Mom, put your phone on top of your head, so I can give you a Kiss On the Top of Your Head,' and I'd wait a couple of seconds and then make the loudest, smackiest noise I could, so she would hear. She always laughed uproariously."
The American Southwest, the Earth, and the Universe must now do without the energy, bravada and smile of this most august of Great Ladies, but her spirit remains in all those whose lives she touched. May she rest in peace, power and possibility.
Here is a collage I made at Diane's request, of my mother in ber various aspects. At the last I added Butterfly. Mom identified as a butterfly.