Jane Freeman

March 26, 1952 - Jan. 6, 2023


January 8, 2023 - 2:28 PM

Jane Ellen Freeman, who was born and lived much of her life in Iola, died Jan. 6, 2023, at the Olathe Hospice House from complications of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
She had been a resident of Lakemary Adult Care Home for the past 12 years; she worked alongside friends at the affiliated sheltered workshop. She was 70 years old, born March 26, 1952.
Jane was the daughter of the late Ralph and Chloe (Doane) Freeman, who spent much of their lives dedicated to advancing the opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Jane was a frequent participant in Special Olympics from its inception, and brought home various medals with memories to prove her extraordinary passion to be her best.
When she was only six weeks old, Jane was afflicted with chicken pox, resulting in viral meningitis, which left her intellectually disabled. Even so, she pursued a meaningful and fascinating life as one of the very first special education students in Iola. In many ways, she was a pioneer and an ambassador at a time when the potential of special needs children was often neglected.
Jane was encouraged by her parents and brothers, George and Jim, to fully enjoy a life well-lived. She worked her way through hundreds of her prized “puzzle books,” and delighted in shopping excursions. She energized others with her enthusiasm for Jayhawks basketball, football and cultural events.

Her special delight was to land a catfish (or any other fish), which she did with uncanny resolve. “I can do this myself,” which she often did with satisfaction. Her politics were decidedly enlightened, and she had little use for those who violated her standards.
Given an assignment at work, she was nimble in her packaging skills, and encouraging in her support of others. She performed in talent shows, sang in the girls’ choir at Christmas, was undefeated in arm-wrestling with her brothers; played tennis and was an active bowler; she was a cheerleader for the boys’ basketball team, all from her wheel chair. Thanks to the staff at Lakemary, she attended Kansas City Royals and Chiefs games and cheered the Kansas Jayhawks to four national basketball championships along the way, the first on the day she was born. Her first question: “Did they win?”
Jane collected and recycled aluminum cans, and had recruited others to do so as well, because, “I like to make money.” At the local A&W, she was partial to a cheeseburger and fries; she was generous with her modest earnings, at least until it was time to pick up the check. Then she worried: “Do I have enough?”
Growing up at Wesley United Methodist Church, she was a fixture in Sunday school and choir, after which she occupied the same pew for morning services with her entire family. She hardly knew a stranger, greeted everyone she met wherever she might be, and taught generations that being “special” also meant “extraordinary.”
Her sense of humor was uniquely her own and could leave others speechless. Asked once where she got a pair of black patent-leather shoes, she replied, “At the shoe store, where do you think?”
Jane’s immediate surviving family includes her brothers and their wives: George and Nancy Freeman of Springfield, Mo.; Jim and Diane Freeman of Overland Park; nieces Carrie (Nate) Huffman of Basehor, and Tyler (Sky) Smeed of Lawrence; Kathryn (Les) Temple of Mansfield, Mo.; nephew Web (Adina) Freeman of Republic, Mo.; and many great-nieces and nephews.
A graveside service and burial is planned for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, at Highland Cemetery in Iola, under the direction of the Feuerborn Funeral Service. Memorials to Lakemary Center online, or in care of Lakemary, 100 Lakemary Dr., Paola, KS 66071.

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