This story is part of WHYY’s series “COVID-19: Remembering lives we’ve lost,” about the everyday people the Philadelphia region has lost to the coronavirus pandemic, the lives they lived, and what they meant to their families, friends and communities.
Describing Jane Elizabeth Boston Jordan as a lover of history is likely an understatement. Jane would use a trip to, or past, Market Street’s shopping corridor in Center City as an opportunity to pepper her companions with facts about the storied Wanamaker Building that Macy’s now occupies.
Jane’s daughter, Natalie Jordan, said her mother would tell her about businesses that used to have locations in the region, such as J.B. Van Sciver and Levitz, two furniture stores that are no longer.
“You would always have her telling you some type of history about wherever we would go or anything that we would do as a family,” said Natalie.
Jane was born on Dec. 30, 1941, in Germantown, and was much like her city — constantly changing, embracing something new, whether it be a new theatrical production or crocheting. She died of complications from COVID-19 on June 12, one month before the 55th anniversary of her wedding to Abraham Robert Jordan.
Though it’s unclear what spurred it, Jane’s affinity for learning and history cropped up early in life, her daughter said.
“She said to me, if she could have been anything that she wanted, she would have been an archaeologist.”
But societal restrictions on women’s careers led Jane to a life of teaching youngsters instead.
After graduating from Germantown High School, Jane completed her education degree at Cheyney College (now Cheyney University). She would teach in the Philadelphia School District for more than three decades, according to Natalie.
Edith Pridgen knew Jane since their college days pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She said Jane emphasized the importance of education to her students and her three children.
And learning was not limited to the classroom. Jane exposed her children to a variety of films and plays, as well as making sure they took part in activities like Scouting.
“She always shared her concept that it was important to make sure that they grew up as well-rounded as possible,” said Edith.
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Likewise, Jane’s personal interests knew no bounds.
Pinochle was her favorite card game, said Natalie, though she could never convince Abraham or their children to play — and she refused to play on the computer.
She spent her free time rooting for the Eagles and the Phillies, reading, singing gospel with her sorority sisters, and attending jazz concerts all across the country.
Jane returned to school and received a master’s degree in administration from Beaver College, now Arcadia University, in 1980.
Edith and Natalie said Jane’s adventures took her to Alaska, France, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, and other places. Even as health concerns in the latter half of her life forced Jane to let up on her travels, the intrepid explorer kept in touch with friends and loved ones.
“She is famous for sending cards to people just to say hello,” said Natalie. “Even in this internet age, she would prefer to do it with a card as opposed to an email.”
Up until last year, Edith said, Jane tried to make it to the “girls’ night out” her sorority sisters of some 50 years organized.
“She was a fighter,” said Edith. “She kept trying to, you know, stay involved even though she had some challenges.”
One of her last outings was limited to family, said Natalie. After quarantining to protect those with health concerns, Jane’s three children and the bulk of her five grandchildren had a cookout where they enjoyed fresh crabs on a sunny day in May.
“She was over the moon that we were able to be together,” said Natalie. “It’s something that hadn’t happened in a long time, but it certainly was something that was very special to her.”