Jane Searle (Jane Margaret Ritenbaugh) had been an active member of the Vineyard community for many years, where she grew to be known for her optimistic life force and loquacious personality. She died of an unexpected heart attack just minutes before Easter at Massachusetts General Hospital, surrounded by family. She was 93.
Jane grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and met her husband Herb Searle in the spring of 1938, when he was 22 and she was 18 and a freshman at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University. Jane and Herb loved the big band dances in college, and they continued to be dance partners for almost 70 years. They were married on August 9, 1941 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.
During World War II, Jane volunteered as an air raid warden in Pittsburgh where steel and munitions were manufactured for the war. She was a young bride while her husband, a lieutenant, served as a gunnery officer delivering men and materials to the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean. Their son Stephen was born in 1945. After the war, Jane and Herb moved to Ocean City, N.J., where their second child, Georgia, was born. Jane was a housewife while her children were growing up in both Ocean City and Haddonfield, N.J. When Herb left his teaching post at Rutgers University to be head of the Secondary Education Department at Shippensburg University (a part of the Pennsylvania state university system), Jane became a teacher of clothing construction and tailoring at Penn Hall, a women’s prep school in Chambersburg, Pa. In 1974, Herb and Jane traveled on a sabbatical for six months, which sparked their long love of travel.
For many years, Herb and Jane enjoyed their antique Mathews powerboat Day Star (built in 1938) on Chesapeake Bay, traveling the inland waterway and then retiring to Lighthouse Point, Fla. Free to travel, Herb and Jane explored the world on trips to Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Pacific. In 1995, after spending many summers with their grandchildren on Martha’s Vineyard, they moved to Vineyard Haven to be near their children to be part of their lives. Jane never missed a Vineyard school activity or performance of either of her grandchildren and was an indefatigable substitute teacher for many years.
A seamstress all her life, one of Jane’s last projects was making sundresses for little girls from the school in Haiti where she supported a child since the earthquake there.
She was always an active member of Presbyterian churches in Ocean City and Haddonfield, N.J., Shippensburg, Pa., Pompano Beach, Fla., and the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. Jane also enjoyed the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society and the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, where she never missed a garden tour. She spent many a fond lunchtime at the Tisbury senior center in her later years and appreciated the many kindnesses of the staff there and during her 90s at home with the visiting nurses from the VNA.
Jane’s energy, optimism and love of life were an inspiration to all who knew her.
She is survived by her son Stephen Searle, daughter Georgia Morris, son in law Len Morris and grandchildren, Sam and Lily Morris and her sister in law, Ruth Costly.
A celebration of her life will take place at her beloved West Tisbury Congregational Church on Saturday, April 20 at 3 p.m., with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, Jane would have loved for anyone to make a contribution to the charity of their choice.
An online registry at Chapman, Gleason & Cole is available for remembrances.