Jane Hawkins Furse Friedman
Jane Hawkins Furse Friedman.
Janie Furse, beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend has left the world way too soon. First child of Austen and Margaret Furse, she was born in Houston, TX on April 5, 1957 with a feisty, hilarious and unrelenting energy that defined her entire life. From early days racing up the steps of the Columbia Low Library as a toddler and traumatizing undergraduates to zooming around her family ranch in Texas, Janie’s spirit was unparalleled.
Big sister to Mary, Austen and John, Janie grew up in Bay City, TX before heading off to boarding school at Hockaday in Dallas and then onwards to Wellesley where she graduated in 1979. Classmates remember Janie as studious and a natural leader, becoming president of the House Council in her senior year.
On a weekend visit with friends to New Haven, she met a third year Yale Law student, John Friedman, who was instantly besotted. They began a relationship which has been as tender as it has been enduring. It survived cross country commutes and even a luxury world tour with Janie’s parents, which Janie wisely skipped, prompting many requests from friends: “Will you please send your husband on vacation with MY in-laws?”
Janie married John in November 1982 in Bay City. Janie didn’t want a large wedding or even a honeymoon. She lost those battles as her newfound New Yorker family descended on the small Texas town to smother her with love, welcoming her into the fold. And no one dropped more Yiddish than this Texas gal. We are, after all, “Mishpocha.” Janie, of course, remained deeply committed to her roots in Bay City. As a partner in her family’s ranch, she met routinely with siblings and cousins in Texas.
Janie’s daughters, ZZ and Meredith, call their mother a “badass” for a reason. They watched her dedication to her career in journalism, first at the New York Post and then at the Daily News, where she radiated uptown elegance amidst scruffy newsrooms. At the rewrite desk when not participating in witty repartee with her fellow journalists, she would make fast work of whatever came over her desk: a parade, a plane crash, or the dramatic outcome of America’s Fastest Chihuahua race. “She was the best rewriter. She could clean up your copy fast.” Her colleagues loved her deadpan humor.
Travel was a great passion, and Janie was as at home in a cocktail dress as she was in leggings and a backpack. Friends remember laughing their faces off whenever they travelled with her. Janie loved going away with one daughter at a time. Before ZZ began law school, the two summited Mount Kilimanjaro. A few years later, Janie and Meredith tackled an extended stretch of the Camino de Santiago, mere months after her cancer diagnosis. Undeterred as ever, Janie walked every inch of their 110 mile stretch shortly after finishing her first course of chemotherapy.
When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Janie took the news calmly and with grace. As in all things, she wanted to do everything (even a grueling 8-hour surgery) with minimal fuss and a sense of humor. When her husband John entered the recovery room, he found a loving wife who awoke with a smile on her face to say: “Thank god! I must not be in heaven if you’re here!” Thereafter she turned even chemo into a social event—referring to it as the “juice bar” and holding court with a rotating band of friends.
Even in hospice care, Janie remained kind, clever and unendingly vibrant. Her deadpan style was still sharp. Rather than wallowing in self-pity Janie demanded jokes or political news updates. She was as clear as could be: “No boo hoo.” Which is hard because we love her so much. Still, despite, our sadness at her departure, we will hold Janie in our hearts forever, a hilarious, kind and unstoppable warrior.
There are women who are beautiful, there are some who are elegant, some who are brilliant, some who are wickedly funny and some with giant hearts, but Janie Furse was all of them and more.