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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Friend Indeed

In Memoriam
Jane L. Gummel
July 4, 1942 – January 8, 2013

            Making new friends in middle age is very rare.  Then again, Jane and I were very rare, ourselves.    Back in the early 1990s, women real estate appraisers were few and far between.  In Cape May County, women real estate appraisers were even fewer and farther.  Maybe that is why Jane and I hit it off.
            Another reason we became such friends, I think, is that Jane wore as many hats as I did.  True, they were different hats.  In addition to appraising, Jane was a mom and grandmom, a horsewoman, and a 4-H volunteer.  I was a dog mom, a writer, and a Doo Wop tour volunteer.  But when it came to Wildwood, animals, and real estate, our hats often complemented each other.
            For one thing, Jane was probably the only person who was actually interested when I talked about appraising.  And, though she wasn’t officially a “native,” Jane had been in Cape May County long enough to know all the players in all the latest gossip.  She could be counted on to tell me whom to date and, more importantly, whom NOT to date.  Jane also introduced me to out-of-the-way delights like Dionysus Restaurant in Woodbine and Jim’s Lunch in Millville. She was one of just a handful of people who understood why all I wanted for my birthday was Sam’s pizza, Kohr Bros. custard, and a ride on the tram car on the Boardwalk…from end to end.
            And in that weird way that life works, it was Jane’s tenacious battle with cancer that brought us closer.  Oh, she had licked the Big C in the mid-90s, though the awful disease changed her life for good.  And she almost licked it again, a few years ago, when chemo and radiation kept those malignant cells at bay.  But cancer never let go of her completely.  Maybe that’s why I – and Jane’s multitude of other friends – decided to hold on even tighter.
            In the last few months, driving her to doctors’ appointments or taking her to lunch at the Star Diner when she could go out or taking her vanilla milkshakes from McDonald’s when she could no longer go anywhere, I learned more about Jane – and she about me – than I had in the almost 20 years before.  Family, trauma, drama, joy – as time ran down, we had fewer and fewer secrets.  And, until the very last, we could still laugh.
            I hesitated about using the photo I selected for this post.  I can almost hear Jane protesting from above.  But this photo was taken by Pat Nagel, the third member of our 20-year triumvirate, in Chuck Schumann’s Big Blue Sightseer, on Sunset Lake, in the middle of the summer.  And we are both laughing.  All of Jane's favorite things.
            I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the true friend that Jane truly was.


  1. Mary, this is a beautiful and touching tribute to a wonderful friend and friendship, reminding me it is never to late in life to make another lifetime friend.
    so sorry for you loss.
    and on a lighter note, maybe now that I work in Vineland, we can make a date for Jim's lunch. I've wanted to try it, and I'd be honored to go with you in honor of June.

  2. Mary, what a wonderful tribute to your friend. Thank you for sharing this. I am very sorry for your loss and I know no words can ease the heartache of losing such a remarkable friend.

  3. Kathy WolperJanuary 28, 2013

    Beautiful tribute to Jane. I almost feel like I know her. I can tell you, from experience, Jane was lucky to have your friendship. May she rest in peace.

  4. Mary MortonJanuary 28, 2013

    Mary, you are a good friend, there is no denying this. All of us who have known your friendship are lucky indeed.

  5. Mary,

    I am sad for you on the loss of your friend Jane. What a gift to have found her as you write "in middle age". It was lucky for both of you to have shared the last days of her cancer journey, wasn't it? I know how hard it is to watch someone lose the battle, but what a gift. an honor really, to be able to be a friend at the end of a life.