May 26, 1928-April 8, 2019
“Love only multiplies, it never divides.”
Following a long decline, Alaskan pioneer and territorial school teacher Jane Cason died of natural causes on April 8, 2019 at Providence Horizon House assisted living facility in Anchorage, just six weeks shy of her 91st birthday. Her family thanks the HH staff for the excellent care she received there over the last few years.
Born May 26, 1928 to Chase and Mildred Maxwell Phillips in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, she began teaching while still in high school due to wartime shortages of educators. She continued teaching in public schools while taking summer and evening classes, earning a Bachelor of Science, Education from the University of Arkansas in 1957. Later that year, she and her husband Velton (V), also a teacher, drove the AlCan highway in a two door Ford with two small boys and a big boxer dog in the back seat, towing a single axle trailer. The young family made it all the way to the end of the road and settled in Homer, where she added another son to the growing family and taught in the territorial, then the state and borough schools as those entities were established. A strong believer in collective bargaining and of a teacher’s classroom independence, she was a founding member of the AEA and was the first NEA delegate from Homer.
As a passionate reader who loved a good story, she was so successful teaching first graders to read that in 1965 she was appointed District Librarian and spent the whole school year driving her brand new Nash Rambler station wagon from town to town to establish a library in every elementary school on the Peninsula, from Seward and Hope to Homer and Seldovia. Along with being teachers, Jane and V had a pair of businesses just across the street from the school – the Mademoiselle clothing store and the Parfait Shoppe that sold burgers and ice cream.
Jane was active in the growing community: As President of the Homer Library Board she wrote and received the first State grant to buy books; she served on the City of Homer’s Health and Public Safety Board as it established Homer’s first mental health facility; she was the only woman on the original City Charter Commission, where she served two terms. In June of 1969, she accepted an appointment by the University of Alaska, and attended the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Community College Advisory Committee where she was appointed to the College Site Committee. Believing both that eventually a bridge would be built close to the mouth of the Kenai River, and that broad accessibility was important, she advocated strongly for the site that eventually became KPC.
She retired from teaching in 1976, and sold the Mademoiselle a few years later. She always loved meeting people and in retirement worked at the AAI ticket and freight counter at the Homer Airport and then managed the Salvation Army resale store for several years. In 1989, as the City of Homer celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, the City Council recognized fifteen families and ten individuals, including Jane, for their involvement in city government and contributions to public service within Homer. Being selected to the “Homer Hall of Fame” was one of her proudest accomplishments. She is well remembered by many residents of Homer, especially by her former colleagues, students, and her church family.
Though her heart remained forever in Homer, in 1992 she moved to Anchorage to be near and lovingly assist with raising all her grandchildren. While “GRANDkids” were her main mission for several years, she also worked at Michael’s Jewelry store, was active at church, a talented seamstress, and enjoyed pets and growing flowers.
She was predeceased by her parents and her three siblings, Chase, Peter and Sarah. She is survived by her three sons, Lynn (Bev), Jon (Marissa), and Sam (Jackie), all of Anchorage; nine grandchildren, Genevieve, Sam, Michelle, Drew, Lindsay, Wiley, David, Everett and Maxwell; and one great-grandchild, Dakota.
In lieu of flowers, Memorials may be placed with the “Bill and Liz Johnson Educator’s fund” at the Homer Foundation, or with a charity of choice.