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Obituary: VAN BUREN, MARY JANE

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014 4:44 p.m. MST

Mary Jane Van Buren 1926 ~ 2011

Mary Jane Van Buren died April 6, 2011 at her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. She lived a life full of adventure and learning and died peacefully at the age of 84 with her family nearby.Mary Jane was born on November 15, 1926 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and adopted at the age of two by William and Josephine Rankin. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Central State Teachers College in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin. She met her first and second husbands Arthur Crowns, Jr. and John Smithback in Wisconsin. In the 1950s Mary Jane struck out for adventure on the California coast. It was there that she met her third husband, Hildebert "Van" Van Buren. In 1965, she and Van moved across the Pacific to Maebashi, Japan with their one-year-old daughter Jessica. Van was a Fullbright scholar, and Mary Jane taught English composition at Gunma University. They lived in Japan for three years, where their daughter Cassandra was born. In 1968 the family moved to Hawaii, and she lived there for the next 25 years. In Hawaii, Mary Jane worked as a legislative aide for state representatives Lisa Naito and Jack Larsen. Following her tenure at the state legislature, she worked for the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, eventually attaining the position of Vice President for Public Relations. She was also active with the Honolulu Community Theatre. During her later years in Hawaii she and dear friend Robert "Bob" Hemphill, Sr. traveled the world - including Canada, China, England, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Russia (when it was still the Soviet Union), Singapore, Thailand and Turkey. These trips brought her great joy. After retiring from the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Mary Jane moved to Olympia, Washington to be nearer to her daughters, grand-daughters and friends. Among other activities, she volunteered at Safe-Place, a domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organization and shelter. Mary Jane's passion for language garnered her the nickname "Grammar Grandma" by her grand-daughters, Emma and Austen. She had a reputation as a fearsome editor, brandishing her red pen anywhere it was needed, including the grocery store and the farmers' market, editing out misplaced apostrophes and correcting other grammatical errors. She especially despised the overuse of the exclamation point, and many a newsletter was improved after her review. She was also a compulsive crossword puzzler. Friends would send her their New York Times puzzles and she would race through them - in pen, of course. She also spent many happy hours assembling jigsaw puzzles on her dining table with her cat supervising. In 2006 Mary Jane moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and continued her love of language. She volunteered as a writing coach at the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center, was an enthusiastic student of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and was a Thursday regular at the Mt. Olympus Senior Center. Mary Jane truly was a lifelong learner, relishing the new knowledge she gathered at Osher. Mary Jane was well known for her sharp wit and quick humor. She loved nothing more than intelligent conversation with interesting people. She will be greatly missed. Mary Jane is survived by her daughter Jessica Van Buren; daughter Cassandra Van Buren and her husband Keith Cormier; and her granddaughters Emma and Austen Van Burns. She was preceded in death by her dear friend Bob Hemphill. No service will be held. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center, The Road Home, Habitat for Humanity, or Best Friends Animal Society.