Cover photo for Jane Baber White's Obituary
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1940 Jane Baber White 2024

Jane Baber White

January 11, 1940 — June 17, 2024

Lynchburg, Virginia

Jane Baber White – pioneer, innovator, activist, and community bridge builder– passed away peacefully at home in Lynchburg, Virginia, on June 17, 2024. She was 84. Jane loved Lynchburg and committed her life to making it better for all who live there.

 Daughter of Lucy Harrison Miller Baber and Charles George Baber, Jane Stafford Baber was born on January 11, 1940, at Virginia Baptist Hospital in Lynchburg and was raised across the street on Oakwood Place. She was a stellar athlete, winning the city tennis championship at the age of 17 and shooting three holes-in-one in her brief golf career. She graduated from E. C. Glass High School in 1958 – where she was named Best Girl Citizen and Miss Basketball as a senior – and from Hollins College in 1962, marrying her high school sweetheart Kenneth Spencer White on June 23, 1962. She worked in a biology lab to support her husband as he completed law school in Charlottesville, then the couple returned to Lynchburg to start a family and to live in the community and among the wide network of friends to whom she was devoted.

 Throughout her life Jane demonstrated undeterred perseverance and dogged pursuit of what she knew was right. She had an amazing belief in doing the right thing and then actually did it, motivating others to join her. While raising her three children and many pet animals, Jane became certified as a landscape designer and served private clients for 20 years, before turning full-time to a 50+ year career of volunteer work in the community, including landscaping almost every public school in the city. She then shifted focus to specializing in historic garden restorations. One of her most notable restorations was the garden of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer at the request of Anne Spencer’s son Chauncey – personally revitalizing and galvanizing volunteers to maintain what became a nationally recognized garden. In 1993, she then undertook renovation of the long-neglected Old City Cemetery, transforming the site over time into a place for the living, famous for its museums, antique roses, and goats. She was intentional in celebrating the stories of the diverse range of people buried there, drawing city residents and tourists alike, and serving as volunteer director and director emerita of the cemetery for almost 30 years. She established the cemetery as an anchor for community development, economic development, bridge building, and education.

 Jane was the author of three books documenting her work – The Book of Attributes of the Living Horticultural Collections of the Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum (2008), Once Upon a Time - A Cemetery Story (2009), and Lessons Learned from a Poet’s Garden, The Restoration of the Historic Garden of Harlem Renaissance Poet Anne Spencer, Lynchburg, Virginia (2011) – and many articles for magazines, both local and national, and various brochures for civic projects. More recently she was the driving force behind 25 Virginia historical highway markers, elevating stories of influential women and people of color in the Lynchburg area.

 Other civic works include serving as the chairman of restorations at the Yoder Community Center and Aubrey Barbour Park and playground, co-founder of Friends of Tinbridge Hill, co-chairperson of a project with the YWCA to renovate the Phillis Wheatley Shelter for Battered Women in the early 1990s, and chairperson of the rehabilitation of the E. C. Glass High School Art Collection in the late 1980s.

 Jane served her community for decades through memberships in the Hillside Garden Club and the Lynchburg Antiquarian Club. Among her numerous awards, Jane was the recipient of the 1989 Massie Medal, the highest award for the Garden Club of Virginia, and in 2008 the Brownson Award, the highest award from the Virginia Association of Museums. In 1988 she and her husband were awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. 

 Jane’s commitment to her community was only surpassed by her commitment to her family. She was always home when her children got off the school bus, and she was known to practice football long snaps with her sons in the backyard. She was her children’s biggest advocate and supporter, and the best role model they could ever imagine.

 A beloved wife, mama, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Jane is survived by her husband of 62 years, Kenneth Spencer White of Lynchburg; three children and their spouses: Virginia “Gena” Hunter White O’Keefe (Bill) of Baltimore, Maryland, Kenneth Spencer White Jr. (Niki) of Lynchburg, Charles Baber White (Kennon) of Lynchburg; four grandchildren: Molly Hunter O’Keefe (Atanas) of Sofia, Bulgaria; Samuel Spencer O’Keefe of Chicago, Illinois; George Baber White and Lucy Harrison White both of Lynchburg; and one great-granddaughter Nina. Surviving Baber relatives include nephew E. Miller Baber Jr. of Roanoke and niece Cary Baber Daly of Richmond. She was predeceased by her brother Edgar Miller “Ned” Baber, of Roanoke, Va. (Cary). She is also survived by dear friends, Ted Delaney, Isaac Williams, and Tomi McGinnis, and her beloved little dog, Blackberry.

 A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Wednesday July 17, 2024, at 12 p.m., with a reception to follow in the church parish hall. Private inurnments, for family only, will take place in the columbarium at the Old City Cemetery and at Spring Hill Cemetery.

 In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial contribution to the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation designated in support of any of Jane’s labors of love: the Anne Spencer Garden Fund, the Pierce Street Gateway Project, the Old City Cemetery Fund, or the Radcliff Cemetery.

 The family wishes to thank Centra cardiologists Brian Schietinger, Matt Sackett and Tom Nygaard, Centra hospice care (particularly Kasie Cash), and BrightStar Care’s wonderful team of caregivers (particularly Kim Long) who took loving care of Jane throughout her courageous last chapter. 

 “She hath done what she could.”

 Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family. 

PARKING OPTION: Randolph College has graciously offered to provide additional parking in their Bell Parking Lot on North Princeton Circle and two continuously running shuttles from the lot to the church from 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Parking signage will be posted on the corner of Rivermont Avenue and North Princeton Circle.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Jane Baber White, please visit our flower store.
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Memorial Service

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. John's Episcopal Church

205 Elmwood Ave, Lynchburg, VA 24503

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