Jane Dwyre Garton was a journalist, mentor, activist, servant, visionary, feminist, and beloved member of the Fox Cities community whose legacies will impact generations to come, particularly those of women and girls. She never sought the limelight, but rather to prepare others for their opportunities to shine.
Born Jane Ellen Dwyre on Aug. 26, 1946, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, she was the daughter of George Leo Dwyre, a plastics salesman, and Mary Veronica O’Brien Dwyre, a theatre aficionado. Jane had one sibling, Bill Dwyre, who was two years older and now lives in Parkville, Maryland. With deep familial roots in Ireland, Jane was often found wearing green and leaning into her heritage.
Jane grew up in a house at the corner of 2nd Street and Prospect Avenue in Sheboygan, went to St. Clement’s grade school, and then North High School, where she was a cheerleader and worked on the school newspaper, the Urbanite. Her interest in research and reporting work took her to the University of Dayton, where she graduated with a journalism degree in 1968.
Jane met her future husband, Anthony, in high school, and they married in 1969. Her life with Tony took them to Iowa, Michigan, and then Tennessee, before returning to Wisconsin and a farmhouse outside of Brillion where they lived for many years. In 1980, the family moved to Appleton and a brick house on East College Avenue where they raised their two daughters, Johanna, and Britt.
Jane’s early work included serving as a sports information officer for Lawrence University’s communications office in the mid-late 1970’s, where she established programs to support the first generation of female collegiate athletes to benefit from Title IX. Though her job at Lawrence was to cover sports, she was told, “don’t call yourself a sportswriter,” which only encouraged her to continue paving the way for decades of girls and women behind her. Jane went on to a pioneering career in the newspaper business, where she often faced challenges as one of the only women in the newsroom. She was a respected beat reporter and editor at the Post-Crescent and had an affinity for assignments related to mental health issues, government, agriculture, and women/girls in sports.
With a healthy appetite for lifelong education, Jane returned to school in mid-life, obtaining a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University, where her thesis focused on the work of young journalists and their important and unique contributions. She then turned to teaching journalism to students at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. The letters of gratitude from her former students quietly filled her top desk drawer.
In later years, Jane worked at the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry, where she was instrumental in founding Leadership Fox Cities, designed to ensure the development of future community leaders. Perhaps her most meaningful work was on behalf of the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, for which she was a founding donor and later served as the Fund’s first executive director. Under her leadership, the Women’s Fund raised its first million dollars. The programs and causes she championed through her time with the Women’s Fund continue to sustain, inspire, and enhance communities, and the individuals she taught and mentored sought her counsel and encouragement throughout her life.
Jane was a published author who loved research as much as storytelling. Her 1999 book, Pedal Cars: Chasing the Kidillac, detailed the history of pedal cars, including the company history of the Garton Toy Company, the family company into which she’d married. She began efforts on her second book, based on the life of Appleton native and prolific mountaineer Christine Boskoff in 2006 and continued her research for the book until she was unable, then passed her work on to her daughter Johanna, who later wrote and published the book on her mother’s behalf.
With a career that spanned a variety of industries, the one thing that remained constant was the philanthropic framework with which Jane approached her writing and her work. Her advocacy for the underrepresented was evident in her service with Kurgan Sister Cities, Friends of the Appleton Public Library, Fox Cities Book Festival, and the Appleton Education Foundation. Her daughter Britt inherited Jane’s visionary thinking and served in the Peace Corps, working with girls and women.
Jane began running in the 1970’s and was an athlete for most of her life. She passed her love of running on to both daughters, who watched her run two Boston Marathons and two Chicago Marathons. Jane’s travels took her all over the world, including Russia, Ireland, Italy, West Africa, and China. She and Tony spent many years enjoying a second home in The Buckingham in downtown Chicago, but Jane’s heart remained in Wisconsin, where she constantly marveled at the beauty of the land and its people. She treasured her friends and extended family who served as confidantes and playmates. Whether it was simply having coffee after workouts at the YMCA or attending the theatre with friends in New York City, Jane gifted her wit and lightness everywhere she went.
Though her days were full of service to others, her greatest joy was life with her husband and two daughters. She made the best Halloween costumes, drove her daughters all over Ireland, and arranged her schedule to never miss a tennis match or cross-country meet, where she was always the loudest mom at the finish line. Jane and Tony loved each other deeply and engaged in the kinds of public displays of affection that embarrassed their daughters frequently. The girls would like to thank their father for showing them and all of us the meaning of devotion through his care of their mother for the past dozen years.
Jane is survived by her beloved husband Tony, to whom she was married for fifty-four years. Her daughters Johanna and Britt, her sons-in-law Ernest and Robert, her four grandchildren, Will, Milana, Eden and Chloe, her brother Bill and sister-in-law Jill, along with her niece Amy and nephew Patrick. On her Garton side, Jane leaves sisters-in-law Nan, Pam, and Deirdre along with a brother-in-law Robert and many cherished nieces, nephews, and extended family.
Tony, Johanna and Britt would like to extend their deepest gratitude to Erick and Jackie Gonzalez, Ann Voges, Valley VNA Senior Care (especially Barb), Dr. Rachell Ayers, and the staffs at Eagle Court Memory Care Center and Moments Hospice for their tenderness and unwavering care of Jane in her final years and days.
Jane’s philanthropy extended beyond the breadth of her life, as she requested her brain be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Foundation, or locally to the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region.
A celebration of life will be held on December 22 at Lawrence University’s Warch Center at 10:00 AM.