Portland, OR, Oregon
Portland, OR, Oregon
Jane Lueddemann Erhman identifies with the saying that “a grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.” Facing an unplanned turn in life, Jane could not meet her expectations of the ideal mother. But in the eyes of her three children and eight adult grandchildren, she is the perfect grandmother and thus the inspiration for the “Fountain Wall in Honor of Grandmothers” on the Walk of the Heroines.
Jane Lueddemann grew up in a prominent family where she was taught to strive for perfection. Born in 1920, in Portland, she observed in her parents role models of civic leadership and social responsibility. From her earliest years at Chapman School, high-spirited Jane was popular with her classmates, a school leader and teacher’s delight. When she graduated, the American Legion honored her for outstanding leadership, scholarship and service at Chapman School.
Jane continued to excel at Lincoln High School, where she was head of the Girl’s League and Vice President of the student body. In those years, horseback riding became a major interest, and she won many ribbons in competitions, particularly in the category of “seat and hands,” in which form, style and control are the qualifying skills. But she was engaged in all aspects of the school and remembers with pleasure teachers who motivated her, including Miss Maurine Brown – later, U.S. Senator Maurine Neuberger.
Jane’s personable ways, her inclusive leadership style and academic excellence led to the highest recognition at Lincoln, as “outstanding (girl) graduate of the class of 1937.” (Jane is proud to recall that the boy student sharing that honor was Robert Mann, already a local celebrity and later founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet.)
At Scripps College, Jane again demonstrated her earlier promise. Although she claims to have had no career aspirations, four years later she was honored and excited to have been one of twelve women in the country selected for a graduate program at Radcliffe College in personnel administration. She and a classmate, a close friend who planned to be a teacher, had their trunks packed for Cambridge, when one of her avid suitors – a Portlander and Yalie with a “hometown hero” reputation – urged her to marry him instead. Three months after graduation, in September 1941, in a highly publicized society wedding, Jane became Mrs. Monroe Jubitz.
December 1941, the country was at war and lives were changed. When Moe applied to the Merchant Marines, the newlyweds moved in with Jane’s parents and awaited the birth of their first child, Anne, in 1942. They were still living in the Lueddemann’s Eastmoreland home when son Al was born, in 1944. After Moe returned from the service, he started work, yet with no other assets set aside money to build a modest house on an undeveloped site far across town. The young family, who had never lived together as a separate unit, moved to their own place shortly before the birth of son Fred, in 1947.
Jane acknowledges that she didn’t have the maturity to manage the stresses of an unsettled household, tight finances, three small children, and a husband distracted by a truck leasing business that was a world apart from the society in which she had been raised and the free-ranging spirit of her youth. She accepts responsibility for the collapse of her marriage.
Harboring many regrets, but without self-pity, Jane set out on her own and became a self-supporting, full-time working woman. She found and rented small quarters in the home of a Tigard family, picked berries and walnuts to make ends meet, and enrolled in a commercial business school course to become a secretary. Eighteen months later, she married a much older man, Alick Wilson, her riding instructor whom she had idolized decades before.
Jane became the principal household wage earner, but that was not a source of complaint. The toughest part was separation from her children. Yet every weekend she planned special outings, attended their school and sporting events when possible, and made the most of holidays. Alick, “a good-hearted soul,” Jane says, never had children of his own, but gave his enthusiastic support. Anne, Al and Fred warmly remember their times together. Jane helped the three children financially as well, contributing monthly toward tuition for private schools or college. By the time she retired from her working life, in 1982, she had been a widow for six years. But at last she could devote her time to her five granddaughters and three grandsons.
Jane’s story includes an especially happy late-life development: In 1999, Jane married her high-school crush, Spencer Ehrman, with whom she hadn’t had contact for more than 60 years. Although Spencer, as Jane, had been an outstanding student and athlete, their parents had broken up their friendship over religious differences. Spencer now was thrice a widower, and his health was poor. But they had five fulfilling years together before he died. And Spencer’s children and grandchildren are devoted to Jane as though she had always been part of their family.
Today, Jane’s priority is her family. But she continues to volunteer. Weekly, for 22 years, she served meals in the Loaves and Fishes kitchen in Northwest Portland. Now she is on steering committees for their Elm Court facility, and for a respite program for caregivers of adults with early-stage memory disorders, a cooperative effort between Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital. For her own pleasure, she is taking piano lessons.
Jane looks forward to her weekly commitment to SMART (Start Making A Reader Today), an experience she shares with her daughter Anne and granddaughter Laurie. “It is such a fulfilling opportunity,” Jane says. “Another way to be a grandmother.”