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.
Jane’s theatrical side was often on display as she strongly believed you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story.  When her granddaughter Annie skipped class one day as a junior in high school and called to commiserate with Nana after being caught, Jane asked her why on earth would she do such a thing??  When Annie explained it was to hang out with the boys on the senior patio, Jane exclaimed, “Oh, well then, you did exactly the right thing!  Trust me. When you are my age you will not look back and wish you were in math. You will be so glad you hung out with the senior boys instead!” She used her white hair to emulate former First Lady Barbara Bush and get herself out of trouble, until she actually had a small stroke and then used the stroke to get out of trouble, which provided no shortage of amusement to those who knew her best.
Generous to a fault, there was nothing Jane wouldn’t give away for any reason to anyone in need or just for the joy of giving.  Her home was literally open 24/7 to all stray people and animals, teenagers, family and friends. Additionally, she never met a dog she didn’t equally love and adopt, or convince someone else to adopt! She loved reading prolifically, drinking cups of tea, and celebrating holidays. She had the best nativity scene in town for years, which she acquired from St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Aledo when they upgraded.  She delivered green Hostess snowballs to her children’s classes at Apollo Elementary School for St. Patrick’s Day to demonstrate her love of the Irish, flew flags on Memorial Day and July 4th, cooked a minimum twenty pound turkey every Thanksgiving, and left bunny paw prints on the dining room table every Easter around each basket.
A private graveside service was held for Jane at the Aledo Cemetery on January 4, 2021 where Marty gave the eulogy, dedicated to her 77 years of contributions on earth and their nearly 54 years of marriage.  A Celebration of Life - truly, one huge party as per her request - will be held at a later date.  As she danced into another realm, leading the way for her immediate family, she shouted over her shoulder with laughter, “Don’t cry over me!  I’m in Heaven now and you all are still stuck on earth!  I’ll see you on the other side!”  It is certain that in addition to meeting half of Heaven, she has already reunited with her parents Grace and Rex, Grandma Mary Vierich, Grandma Ruby and Grandpa Scott, her brother Tom, her sister Kay, her nephew Chip, Big John Young, and has finally met her in-laws, Jean and Eugene South.  She is already missed so very, very much and will be remembered with much love and admiration by all who are blessed to have known her.  Memorial donations may be made to the Mercer County Food Pantry and mailed to Speer Funeral Home, PO Box 27, Aledo, Illinois 61231.