Barbara Jane South, 77, of Aledo, Illinois, stepped into Heaven on December 29, 2020. In true Jane Varner South style, she called the shots right up to her last breath, when she quietly fell asleep connected to her immediate family and under the exceptional care of the University of Iowa Hospital staff.
Jane was born on December 16, 1943 in Keokuk, Iowa to Grace (O’Connell) and Rex Varner. She graduated from Aledo High School in 1961 and Marycrest College in 1966, with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and English. She married Martin Eugene South on December 31, 1966. Jane is survived by her husband, Marty, daughter and son-in-law Mary Jude and Drew Crousore, sons and daughters-in-law John and Allison South and Joe and Lindsay South, sister Judy O’Donnell, brother and sister-in-law Mike and Delores Varner, her grandchildren Annie and Jack Crousore, Caroline, Cate, and Lilly South, and many nieces, nephews, extended family, and close friends including Ruth Ann Young and Kathy O’Brien. Jane was a devout wife, mother bear, Nana, sister, aunt, friend, and prayer partner to everyone.
Jane was a brilliant woman who devoted her life to teaching, which she loved dearly. From teaching middle school in her 20s, to teaching GED, ESL, and special needs classes in her 30s, to teaching Sunday School, women’s groups and bible studies in her 40s through 70s, to teaching classes at the Senior Center in Aledo in her last few years, she made every student she came across feel valued and worthwhile. She was an avid volunteer, serving on numerous boards, committees and missions too many to name. She led by example, teaching her children to always do the right thing no matter the cost, and to be passionate about whatever they choose to do. Beyond her own children, she taught her grandchildren to persevere and moreover realize that life is just one big adventure in the making. She could minister to anyone, mainly because people could tell she truly cared due to her ability to connect with them, and made everyone feel genuinely loved without any agenda or expectations. She went out of her way to make other people feel better by paying attention to details others might not notice. She once went through the KFC drive through with Joe; the teenager working there had severe acne. She looked at the employee and said without hesitation, “You have such a wonderful smile.” He thanked her and laughed about how much his parents had spent on braces. As they drove away, Joe asked her why she did that. She said she just felt that kid needed to hear a sincere compliment; it was a perfect example of how she chose to live her life for others.
Jane was the definition of empathy and compassion. She would spend time with anyone who needed her, didn’t hesitate to pray with integrity and vigor in public, and always opened her bible at the airport so she was available to weary and/or unsuspecting travelers - all of whom became her friends. She was a patriot and proud of her family to the core, especially proud when both her sons chose to follow in Marty’s footsteps, serving in the United States Marine Corps; Major John M. South served for a career twenty years and Captain Joseph M. South served six years upon his graduation from the United States Naval Academy. Her love of teaching and fierce advocacy for those in need live on in Mary Jude.