By Rose S. Prinzi
As families gather today to celebrate Mother’s Day, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation would like to pay tribute to a special and inspiring woman – Jane Fagerstrom.
Born in Jamestown as Jane Nelson, she graduated from Jamestown High School in 1945. She married the love of her life, John W. Fagerstrom, in 1946. Jane Fagerstrom died on January 6, 2007, leaving a remarkable legacy of leadership, compassion, and love. In her honor, Jane’s three sons established the Jane Fagerstrom Fund through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
Jane is best remembered publicly for her active and dedicated years of service to our community. During a time when our county was going through many changes, she was a trailblazer in a male-dominated world. She was the first woman to serve as Chautauqua County’s Executive Assistant, the first female director of the Comprehensive Employment Training Administration, and was the county’s first female personnel director.
Upon her retirement in 1988, Jane ushered in a new chapter in her life by pursuing her desire to help people, especially the disadvantaged, handicapped, children, and the aged. Over the next 18 years, she volunteered countless hours to many organizations. Her roles, including president of the Joint Neighborhood Project, member of The Resource Center Board of Directors, a member on the Research and Strategic Planning Committee, and the United Way, demonstrated her commitment to our community.
Her firsts did not end at retirement. She broke new ground for women when she was elected to the county legislature in 1993, and served as the first female chairperson of the legislature from 2000-2002. She was highly respected by her fellow legislators. Maria Kindberg, Jane’s friend and legislative colleague, once stated, “Her compassion for people and her desire to have a positive impact on their lives made her one of the most outstanding legislators Chautauqua County ever had.”
However, Jane was a mom long before she began her public life. Her greatest and constant treasure was her family. She and John raised three boys, John, Jeffrey and David. Jane was dedicated to her two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. As her son John described her, “She taught her sons honor, commitment, loyalty and tenacity tempered with compassion and understanding.” Jane’s life was filled with dignity, integrity, kindness, charm, humor, and community service. She made tremendous contributions to her city and county, but her crowning achievement was that as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Family was always the highest priority in her life.
As former Chautauqua County Executive Joseph Gerace recalled during her eulogy,
“You knew the most important thing of all was raising your children, and you did it right. Your top priority in life was family, family, and family. You were a living lesson in how to do things right. ”
Today, Jane’s legacy lives on in many ways through the memory of her family and friends, the impact she made during her years as a public servant and legislator, and through the Jane Fagerstrom Fund established to support the Joint Neighborhood Project, an organization that Jane championed. In honor of Jane’s inspiration to the women and families of our area, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and Staff wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day!