In Memory

Jane Desmon

Jane Desmon

From the Buffalo News, May 20, 1998. 

Jane M. Desmon, 59, a native of Buffalo who taught youth drama classes here and later instructed handicapped young adults in California, died Friday (May 15, 1998) in the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center eight weeks after suffering a stroke.

Ms. Desmon graduated from Elmwood-Franklin School, Buffalo Seminary and Boston University before earning a master's degree in theater arts at California State University at Long Beach.

As a young girl living in Buffalo, she was a champion horseback rider at the Buffalo Saddle & Bridle Club, earning many local and regional ribbons and trophies. Ms. Desmon also loved drama, working as an actress and director and then as a stage manager in summer stock, mostly in Vermont and Massachusetts.

After teaching drama and public speaking at Haddonfield, N.J., High School, Ms. Desmon returned to Buffalo in 1967 and headed the youth drama program at the Jewish Community Center for four years. Her students included Elizabeth Swados, the New York City playwright and composer, who credited Ms. Desmon with influencing her own love of the theater.

For the last 22 years, Ms. Desmon designed and taught programs in California for handicapped people in their early 20s, many of them autistic. She taught them how to obtain and keep jobs, how to use public transportation and other life skills that helped them lead independent lives.

"She was phenomenal in getting these kids excited about learning," said her brother, David H. Desmon of Williamsville. "Those kids loved her, and she loved them."

In addition to her brother, survivors include her longtime companion, Vickie Felts.

A graveside funeral was held Sunday in Glendora, Calif.

(my thanks to Vince Summers for finding this obituary and so many others for us)

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02/10/16 07:26 PM #1    

Vicki Meece (Knowles)

Jane was a favorite teacher for many of us who participated in the plays. I was her student director for Miracle Worker and Tea House of the August Moon. I got such joy from working with her during those happy, crazy months of rehearsal, particularly running lines with Fred Walker because I always had a crush on Fred Walker! Jane taught me blocking, set design, a little bit about lighting, but mostly gave me my love of theatre. Senior year I dared to try out and was #1 Grecian Urn in Music Man. Many of us shared hours on the stage during those rehearsals and the performances were spectacular.  I majored in English literature in college and took every course available on the playwrights. My kids had little choice but to participate in Wilton Children's Theatre (Wilton, CT) where we conquered Oliver, The Hobbit, Annie, Music Man, and Bye Bye Birdie from grades 5 - 8. They acted and I sewed! Wil and I are still going to as much local theatre in Wilmington, NC, as we can schedule. I still have two hand-written letters from Jane on official HMHS stationery thanking me for my help. I would love to be able to thank her for opening up the world of theatre to me.


In our final rehearsal before opening night of Tea House, Jane thought Fred Walker's look of shock when opening a book on a desk was just not strong enough. She just wasn't getting the look of heart-stopping amazement she wanted out of him upon seeing the book. So she had a stagehand secretly put a centerfold from Playboy in the book on opening night. Fred not only appeared paralyzed when he first flipped open the book in front of a packed house, but after a moment's reflection, strolled back over to the desk and opened the book a second time to have a further look. Fred, ever masterful on stage, stole the scene. It was wonderful!  (Thank you, John Reisner, for remembering the second glance!.)


02/17/16 12:27 PM #2    

Ed Madden

It’s a common thing for people to look back on their high school years and to recognize a teacher or teachers who made a lasting impression on them and perhaps influenced the direction of their lives. At HMHS for many of those folks who graduated in 1966, that person was Jane Desmon. I had public speaking classes with Miss Desmon (We were allowed to call her Jane only after we graduated ), but her influence on me and so many others was less academic and more centered on the theater and theater arts. Her real classroom was the stage of the HMHS auditorium. Our class was fortunate because Jane initiated the change from “class plays” to “school plays”. The result, of course, was Teahouse of the August Moon in the spring of our junior year, The Miracle Worker in the fall of our senior year and The Music Man in the spring.

While I was a backstage guy, functioning as a stage hand, property hand and stage manager, rather than as an actor, my experience in Jane’s productions is something I’ve always treasured. Jane’s wit, sarcasm, insight into the theater and general command of the situation made those plays a joyful experience for all of those involved. We were just not a group of kids with differing levels of talent; we were a theater company. The sheer energy that Jane brought to the projects and conveyed to all of us was something magic and source of much pride.

So many good and positive memories: I remember going to Haddonfield Lumber for materials to build the props. I remember singing along with the cast all the songs in The Music Man (I still remember a lot of the lyrics to this day). And the electric buzz when we found out that Mr. Reynolds, the superintendent of schools, was in the audience. Of course, there were the cast and crew parties at the Cow Tail Bar and Richman’s as well as the post rehearsal hanging out at Green Valley with the juke box playing “These Boots are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra. So many good and positive memories.

Outside of the plays and classroom and after graduation, my cohorts and I got to spend time with Jane and her German Shepherd, Lupi. We even visited her in Buffalo on the way to Wayne Pratt’s wedding after she had relocated back to her hometown. Of course and as is often the case, we drifted apart from Jane as we stumbled our way into adulthood, and she went on to enrich the lives of so many others. As we started the process of locating classmates and teachers for our 50th reunion, we discovered that our dear friend, Jane Desmon had passed away far too young in 1998, and my heart hurt. So many good and positive memories.

02/18/16 04:33 PM #3    

Vincent Summers

Now I wish I had been involved in the school plays and knew Jane Desmon. I never did. Why? I was ever so shy. Now I am considered (quite frankly) a ham who can (and does) put on a show. Yes, I am thte opposite now of what I was during our high school years. I dare say ya'll wouldn't know me now. I would love to act in a play. What's more, I believe I would be good. But the window of opportunity is now gone for me. As I said, I wish. As the saying goes, If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. -Vince.

02/18/16 06:18 PM #4    

David Dalton

Ed, you expressed the feelings of so many of us. Great teacher who embodied the true spirit of "teaching". Loved that lady.

02/27/16 11:56 AM #5    

Nelson Widell

In our junior year, I tried out and won the leading role, Captain Fisby, in "The Teahouse Of The August Moon" I was kind of scared but Jane Desmon had Nancy Justice work with me to memorize the lines and she was patient .However, several weeks into rehearsals, which would have been January 1965 I abruptly left HMHS and continued my education at Valley Forge Military Academy with Larry Ergood. Jane Desmon was not happybut it all worked out in the end since George Sullivan took my place and I am sure he was a better actor than I could be.






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