WHITINGHAM- Small town life has quite a lot to recommend it, not the least of which are caring neighbors some of whom happen to be medical professionals, like Whitingham Town Nurse Jane Boyd.
Born on July 5, 1942, in North Adams, MA, to Myrtle (Berard) and William Bosley, Jane grew up on South Hill in Readsboro where younger brother Robbie and his wife Isabel still live. Older sister Joyce Russell also lives on South Hill. Jane’s older brother Pat died two years ago.
Both of Jane’s parents died from complications of smoking at relatively young ages. “I never saw them old,” Jane said, almost as a cautionary tale for the stubborn who continue to smoke. Her husband, Donnie, smoked but gave it up on his 29th birthday.
Jane attended elementary school in Readsboro until eighth grade and went on to graduate from Whitingham High School in 1960, the first class to graduate from the campus now home to Whitingham Elementary and Twin Valley Middle School.
Jane and Donnie were married October 12, 1963, in Readsboro at the Baptist Church. Their honeymoon was spent traveling to northern Vermont. Stopping at a friend’s house was one of Jane’s favorite memories of the trip, if not the most interesting. On their wedding night, Donnie and Jane stopped at a motel in Lee, MA. Donnie left to find food and when he returned the key wouldn’t work from either side of the door. “He was locked out,” she laughed. But not for long. Love finds a way.
Jane attended nursing school in Pittsfield at the Henry. W. Bishop III Memorial School of Nursing. She earned a three-year diploma in the registered nurse program. High school sweetheart Donnie worked with his dad on the family farm on Burrington Hill. Like most young men who chose to live in a rural area, Donnie worked a variety of jobs: for brother-in-law Tink Gerard, then Phil Davis in Wilmington, operating heavy equipment and doing some carpentry. Eventually, Donnie would work for the town of Whitingham, retiring as road commissioner.
Jane worked at North Adams Hospital, on a medical/surgical floor until just before daughter Naomi was born.
For 25 years, the couple lived in the house that is now home to their son Seth and his family, formerly the Bert Shippee place. Donnie’s parents, Merton and Tiny, lived most of their married life at the farm on Burrington Hill. While Jane was home with Naomi, then town nurse Alice Howes approached her about taking over the job. Howes was moving to Brattleboro.
“This was 1964 before ambulance, rescue squads, and home health agencies,” recalled Jane. “(Being town nurse) was much more involved than it is now.”
Seth was born April 27, 1970, and when he was four weeks old, he went with Jane on her calls. Before rescue squads, doctors like Milton Wolf and Stuart Porter made house calls and Jane or relatives would transport patients to Brattleboro or Bennington.
In 1975 when Seth started kindergarten, the school job eventually went to half-time. Later when Jane decided to refresh her skills at Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg, Mary Zenorini (who took up nursing at age 60 and was known for her trademark red leather pants) took over as town nurse. When Mary and husband Joe left the area, Jane took the job back and also worked full time at the school. Every weekend Jane would work 12-hour shifts both days and adding hours as an evening supervisor at Vernon Green Nursing Home, director of the special needs or Alzheimer’s unit and teaching the nurse’s aide course. On Fridays Jane went to New Ipswich, NH, where Donnie was working at the time.
Naomi became a registered nurse like her mother and is now the oncology program manager at Baystate Franklin in Greenfield. Seth is risk and safety manager at Stratton, as well as manager of the urgent care clinic at the mountain. Seth went to school to be a paramedic and served many years on the rescue squad. He also worked at Mount Snow for long-time valley physician Dr. Harry Haroutunian.
While Jane became full time at school, as town nurse she just needed to be on call. Now having retired from the school, she works closer with doctors. “Things have changed a lot since people have access to different programs like home health and the presence of caregivers and visiting nurses,” said Jane, “and when the visiting nurses discharge the patient I would pick them up if they still needed someone to monitor them.”
What Jane loved about being school nurse were the little smiley faces that she now meets as adults who sometimes even say thank you. “’Thank you for letting me sleep in your room when I really wasn’t sick,’” she recalled hearing from at least one former student. “Watching kids grow is always fun, they change much from year to year.”
In 1981, Whitingham Principal Jurg Jenzer asked the Boyds if they would host a foreign exchange student through Open Door program. The experience changed their lives.
Maria Teresa Gonzales came from Puerto Montt in southern Chile, south of Santiago. She was with the family from December through March. Maria has been close to Naomi ever since. She has come back several times, and her boys have been here as well. Jane and Donnie went to Chile five years ago. “Since they didn’t finish that bridge over the Panama Canal,” Jane said jokingly, “we had to fly.” While flying is not a favorite, Jane is looking forward to a Caribbean cruise with the entire family next month to celebrate Jane and Donnie’s 50th anniversary.
While Jane always thought she wanted to do acute care, she found being a town nurse her niche. “I never thought of it as a job because I’ve always enjoyed seeing the people. Being school nurse was home away from home,” Jane said.
Jane has sung in the church choir for many years, starting with Gloria Plumb and then Jan Durfey. “At the last service, only three singers showed up,” said Jane. “Linda Farrington said Jan will pray on it and Jan said whoever walks in the door is in the choir. In walked Teresa Oakes, Amber and Debbie Cox, and Annie Kondracki, all veteran singers. Jane also wanted it noted that her primary hobby is being a doting grandmother to her four grandchildren.
Checking on individuals who live alone can be therapeutic and it does as much for Jane as it does for them. “It keeps me in tune with their safety and health and that makes me happy,” she noted. “It’s nice to have something to do, otherwise I’d have to rent a baby.” She only drives locally now, due to diminished vision in one eye. “At least I have one good eye and I can see the sunshine,” she said with the smile that rarely leaves her face.
Jane’s house, just up the road from Seth’s, has views of Sadawga Lake and Lake Whitingham and she takes the time to sit on her porch, listening to the birdsong, seeing something new every day.