As I re-read this story as I prepped it for this blog, I was struck by this statement: "Each place they moved, Jane Stacy added a new circle of friends. 'I don't lose friends, I just accumulate them. They're too valuable to lose.'"
From what I know of Jane, she's still expanding her circle of friends. I hope you enjoy this Joni Adams Bliss profile of a remarkable lady.
Published in the Southeast Missourian, Sept. 6, 1994:
Jane Stacy has worked the past 21 years as director of alumni services at Southeast Missouri State University. (Fred Lynch ~ Southeast Missourian archive)
PROFILES: JANE STACY HAS FOUND LIVING IN A GLASS HOUSE NOT ALWAYS EASY
By Joni Adams Bliss
Jane Stacy has lived her life in glass houses.
She grew up in the small town of Charleston, the eighth child of a Baptist preacher. For eight years, she was the sister-in-law of a Missouri governor.
She lived as a coach's wife and then graduated to wife of the president of Southeast Missouri State University for nearly a decade.
And for the past 21 years, Jane Stacy has been a spirited university booster as Southeast's director of alumni services.
After all these years in the public eye, you might think Jane would tire of the burden.
Her moxie and warmth are genuine. She is tenacious and plain-speaking. And she remains passionately faithful to her alma mater.
Jane also is painfully aware of the fragile nature of glass houses.
An unexpected divorce from her husband of nearly 30 years shattered a storybook role as the university's first lady. He left. She stayed.
With the help of family, friends and faith, her confidence and sense of humor are restored.
Her father, the Rev. Allen Cooper, came to Charleston from Brinkley, Arkansas, in 1933 as pastor of the First Baptist Church. He found his niche and stayed.
Jane was the last born of six girls and two boys.
Growing up, three things were emphasized in the Cooper household: religion, music and education. They remain her three guiding forces today.
The brothers and sisters grew up very frank and honest with each other.
"Sometimes it's scary because everyone bluntly says what they have to say. Nobody hedges -- they just put it on the line. It's real strange because Mother and Dad weren't like that. They were very kind and sensitive people."
Her mother, Janie May Cooper, who died last month, was honored in 1969 as Missouri's Mother of the Year.
Her dad had a way of making everybody see themselves better.
He could envision in medical school the young man who flipped burgers at a nearby restaurant. The Rev. Cooper helped the young man, who today is a respected Sikeston doctor.
The Rev. Cooper called a young law school student home to Charleston on the final day of filing for state representative in Mississippi County. No one had filed. He encouraged Warren Hearnes to place his name on the ballot.
"Daddy was the Republican county chairman. There were only four of them. They caucused in a phone booth." Jane laughs at the memory. "Warren asked him what ticket he should file on. 'File on the Democratic ticket,' my daddy told him. 'That's how you'll get elected.' My daddy paid Warren's filing fee."
Eventually, Hearnes became governor of Missouri -- the first to serve two terms. And he became the husband to the Rev. Cooper's daughter, Betty.
"Daddy saw potential in rocks, and pretty soon the rocks started becoming something else."
A number of his own children went on to earn college degrees.
Her sister Betty earned a music degree and served as a state legislator. Another sister, Jennie Cooper, teaches English at Southeast. One brother is a doctor; another sister holds her doctorate.
But Rev. Cooper's dream for his youngest daughter didn't come to pass.
"He always wanted one of his children to go into the ministry, and I was the logical one. I had the inclination. Instead, I decided to get married."
But after all these years, Jane has her father's dream in sight. She is finishing a seminary degree.
"I've been working on it for years through night school," she says. "I have no idea what I'll do with it."
But Jane has used her religious teachings in all areas of her life.
"Some people have laughed at the things I've done at the alumni office such as going to the funeral homes. I've handled the job on a more personal level."
Jane Cooper met her future husband through the Baptist Student Union. Both she and Bill Stacy of Jefferson City were students at Southeast. Their first date was singing a duet at Red Star Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau.
Bill was studying political science and history, and Jane worked toward her teacher's degree.
They married and continued school. Bill was on the football team, and they lived in a small apartment building with two other football couples. But Jane dropped out of classes the next year to take care of their first son.
Mark was born in 1959 -- nine months and two weeks after the Stacys married.
"The doctor told me that Mark might come early. I told him he was wrong. I would not go early. I told the doctor my dad was a Baptist preacher and they circle the date you get married."
A daughter, Sara, and son, Jimmy, followed.
The family moved with Bill's career. He began at Malden as the football coach. It was a tough beginning as the team lost every season.
She was a trooper. With two small children, Jane still managed to attend every practice. She also washed all the practice clothes.
"The first year, they had no washer or dryer at the school so it was pretty tough. I had Sara on a Thursday night and they had a soap game on Friday. I came home on Saturday and all the practice clothes were piling up. On Monday, I got the first load on the line and it broke. I sat in the back yard and just cried, and I never was a crier."
Their back yard adjoined a school board member who saw the clothes line break. A short time later, the school purchased a washer and dryer.
The family later moved to Carbondale, where Bill Stacy worked to complete his doctorate. She worked full time at the Illinois Baptist Association.
For three years, they served as resident advisers at Baldwin Hall, a girl's dormitory.
She remembers with a laugh how her son Mark, then about 5, learned to yell, "man on the floor."
Her work with the 120 girls involved a lot of ministry. There were suicide attempts, failed grades and broken hearts. She had to deal with heartache as well. Her dad died in 1965.
Each place they moved, Jane Stacy added a new circle of friends. "I don't lose friends, I just accumulate them. They're too valuable to lose."
Jane was only 10 when her sister Betty married Warren Hearnes.
"I was closer to Warren then my two brothers. We always used to fight about everything. We were both very opinionated. But when I'd get into a jam, he was the one I'd call. No matter how young I was, Warren always acted like what I had to say was important to him."
Jane spent several summers with the Hearnes family, watching the children.
When Warren Hearnes served as Missouri governor from 1964-1972, she made many trips to the governor's mansion.
She remembers one time a group of senators came to visit the mansion and she offered to fix drinks.
"I asked Sen. Muskie if he wanted bourbon or whiskey. Sen. Eagleton said, 'Jane bourbon is whiskey, get out from behind that bar.'"
They got used to the fact that inmates worked in the mansion. She remembered one particular inmate named Edgar, who played with the kids.
"One afternoon I heard the kids and Edgar arguing. He told them, 'Listen, I know more about cops and robbers than either one of you do and you're not playing them right.'"
She leans back in her chair and laughs out loud.
Despite the power, Jane says her sister and brother-in-law remained very down-to-earth.
"Dad would always tell us, 'Better be nice to people on the way up, because you're going to meet them on the way down.'"
In 1967, the Stacys moved back to Cape Girardeau. For Jane, it felt like coming home. Bill joined the speech faculty and Jane finished her degree.
Then on Valentine's Day, 1973, she was summoned to the office of Mark Scully, then president of the university.
"I figured he wanted to tell me something about Charleston. He and my dad were great friends, and I'd known him all my life," she says.
But Scully had other things in mind for Jane. The college was in the midst of planning its centennial celebration, and director of alumni services was ready to retire at age 74.
"I just asked him when he wanted me to start. 'Right now,' he said. I just went right over to the office and started work."
The next day, she went by to talk with the university treasurer, Jack Wimp.
"I had forget to ask if I was going to get paid," she chuckles. "I never looked back."
Her first year was one of her toughest, though.
After months of preparation, the gigantic centennial parade was rained out. It was the only one rained out in her 21 years -- and the only one for which she didn't have a rain plan.
"After all that work, I was absolutely crushed."
Bill was named president of Southeast in 1979, and Jane continued her work as alumni director in addition to her new social duties.
"I always saw potential in Bill to be president. I think he served the school well during that time. He had a sense of the area and good communication skills. We had a lot of opportunities to meet legislators during the years Warren was governor. It put us in a circle of friends where we could easily call up the legislators on a first-name basis," she says.
Robert Leestamper, the previous president, had been released, and the Stacys worked to return good feelings to the campus. Jane opened up the president's home, Wildwood, to the public through various social events.
But then the festivities abruptly ended.
Jane said she first learned of the impending divorce in a letter from Bill's attorney in 1989. The Stacys never spoke again.
"It was a real blow to everyone, primarily to me. I probably should have seen it coming, but I didn't. Marriage was something I thought was forever."
She retreated into a world of family and sanctuary at her childhood Charleston home. For more than a month, no visitors were allowed.
"I felt so sorry for myself, I couldn't think of anything else. Theologians would probably call it the dark night of the soul. It's a time for self examination."
Two months later, Jane decided to get up, figuring she owed too much to everyone who loved her.
But going back to work was tough, especially considering Bill remained another year as president.
"It was just like someone had picked up a stick and beat you every day. I was humiliated, embarrassed and brokenhearted. But each day I just put one foot in front of the other. The staff and alumni were so supportive. I was determined not to become bitter, and I've had to work hard not to."
She received a job offer at another school and weighed her options. But Jane decided she didn't want to start over again. It is a decision she hasn't regretted.
At 56 years old, Jane Stacy doubts she will marry again. She enjoys the independence to travel and make her own way. A "white-knuckle flier," she overcame her fears and visited Malaysia and the Holy Land with the alumni association.
One of her most exciting days in alumni work came when she was visiting with Roger Rhodes, a Gideon farmer. He called Jane to his home, and she figured he probably wanted to give a much-appreciated $5,000 or so to the university.
"He was 82 years old, and said he wanted to do something for the university. Like an idiot, I told him we needed $350,000 to finish the science building. I told him it would be nice if the building were named for him. He looked at me and said 'Fine, we can do that.' I nearly fell over."
Over the years, her duties have expanded from Homecoming to a full array of alumni services. Today, her office keeps track of some 46,000 alumni in the computer. Her amazing powers of recollection -- especially names -- comes in handy.
She has set her sights on reaching 25 years before even thinking of retirement.
And she hasn't lost her sense of humor.
An offhanded comment about yard junk has brought its own rewards.
One Christmas, when she was entertaining 60 family members, some friends filled her front yard with plastic pink flamingos and flood lights.
When she arrived back from a trip, dozens of pink flamingos were hanging from her balcony.
"I never know when they're going to show up," she laughs good-naturedly.
She also enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren, ages 3 to 9.
"They call me Mawmaw, and I love it. They've taught me about predators, aliens and baby sparkles, and all kinds of good things people should know. They keep me young."
She glances around her office contentedly. Life in her glass house has changed over the years. Jane Stacy loves the demands of her job, but enjoys the independence of being a step removed from the limelight.