Jane C. Forster

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 2:35 pm

Jane C. Forster, 84, of Decorah, died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, at the Winneshiek Medical Center. Her family is pleased to report that she was unconscious without anxiety or pain during the dying process.

The dedicated hospice staff at the hospital managed her care skillfully and respectfully, honoring her wishes as stated in her advance directive. Jane was a strong advocate for the right to die with dignity. She would have felt fortunate that the manner of her dying safely excluded her from the desperate attempts to prolong her life that politically correct dying in this country requires, a life that would have included the likelihood of imprisonment in prolonged senility and progressive paralysis.

Jane was born Nov. 27, 1931, in Canton, Ill. to Anne Maureen Casey Calkins and Charles C. Calkins. She had two older sisters, Nancy and Mary. The Calkins family moved frequently to accommodate her father’s management position with International Harvester, finally settling in Ottumwa, where Jane graduated from high school.

She graduated with honors from Clarke College in Dubuque, where she met her future husband, Irving Forster, who was attending nearby Loras College. They married in Ottumwa in 1955.

While Irv was completing graduate school in Chicago, Jane earned an MA in history from Loyola University and gave birth to the first of four daughters. Excited by the possibilities for social and political reforms promised by the John F. Kennedy administration, the family moved to the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area in 1961, where Jane spent the next few years tending to the growing family while adjusting to the turmoil following the murders of president Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., race riots and the U.S. invasion of Vietnam.

Eventually, Jane was offered a fellowship by Catholic University’s Department of Educational Administration resulting in a PhD. Her dissertation focused on the role of independent study as a lifelong pursuit, which became a principle that guided much of the rest of her professional and personal life. In 1972, the Forster family moved to Decorah.

Jane was employed by the then Northeast Iowa Technical Institute (NITI) to initiate and establish the Area Agency on Aging, a federal program designed by the Kennedy administration to improve services to aging citizens of rural areas.

In 1976, she was appointed director of adult and continuing education for the Calmar and Peosta campuses and became the first woman to serve in a cabinet level position in the Iowa community college system.

In 1987, Jane became vice president of community services and served as a member of the executive committee working to attain community college status for NITI, which was granted in 1988. Jane was keenly interested in this development because it provided a local and affordable accredited path through both campuses to a four year college degree. For several years she also served as an evaluator for North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting organization for community colleges.

Jane left her position as an administrator in 1998 and continued as a part time instructor in history and humanities. She developed and taught two new courses, one of which was the first course on the Holocaust taught at an Iowa community college. Although she retired from the college in 2003, Jane continued her interest in lifelong learning. She was an active participant in the seminars for seniors offered by Luther College. In 1976, Jane and Irv bought 200 acres of rolling countryside along Ranch Road near Decorah, which at one time had been the homestead of Norwegian immigrants. Irv proceeded to build the house the family would move into in 1977.

In keeping with their philosophy of environmentalism and the importance of caring for the natural world, in 2001 Jane and Irv placed the farm into a conservation easement to make it immune from development. They enjoyed rural life for 30 years before moving into town in 2008. Jane loved reading and had a keen memory for historical and political facts.

As an advocate for gender equality, the last year of her living was dominated by attention to the details of the political process that might lead to the election of a woman to the presidency of the United States.

She loved music and dancing, piano and voice and was a virtual recording machine of the lyrics of any songs she heard more than once.
Jane is survived by her husband of 61 years, Irv Forster; her daughters: Anne Forster Shreffler, Omaha, Neb.; Molly Forster (Dennis Kurtz), North Liberty; Sarah Kubley, Boulder, Colo.; Lori Forster (Craig Brown), Tallahassee, Fla..; her grandchildren: David Irving Shreffler (Anne Meysenburg), Omaha, Neb.; Kellie Anne Shreffler Osler (Michael), Riverside; Zachary Welsh (Hye Jeong); her great-grandchildren, Desmond Irving Shreffler and Calvin Reid Osler; her sister, Nancy Taylor (Harry) Evanston, Ill.; her sister-in-law Marguerite Warner, Antioch, Ill.; and many wonderful nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews and many special friends.

She was preceded in death by her sister Mary Buckley.
Memorials may be made to Compassion and Choices (compassionandchoices.org) or the Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org).

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