Jane Hendee McMullen Behlke, 87, passed away October 1, 2013 at the Alaska Pioneers Home in Anchorage. She was born November 29, 1925, in Seward to Paul Clarence and Luella (Kelsey) McMullen. At one time, her father was mayor of Seward. He owned and operated McMullen’s grocery. Subsequent to his death, her mother changed the nature of the business to sell clothing and household items. Jane’s childhood in Seward and Cooper Landing fostered an independent, adventurous spirit, a love of learning, and a wonderful sense of humor.
She enjoyed entertaining all listeners with stories of her childhood in Seward. After her father’s death in 1938, her mother was kept busy running the family’s grocery store and raising two young children. As a result, Jane spent her summers with the Lean family in Cooper Landing. Those summers were an important aspect of a childhood she considered idyllic. In 1940, she convinced her mother to buy property at Cooper Landing.
During World War II, Jane’s mother decided that Seward, then home to many young soldiers, was not an ideal place for her daughter. Jane finished high school at St. Helen’s Hall in Portland, Oregon. She later received a Bachelor’s Degree from Whitman College and a Master’s in Chemistry from the University of Michigan. After college, she returned to teach elementary school in Seward for three years before becoming Registrar at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It was there that she met and married Charles Behlke in 1953.
Education and jobs took Chuck and Jane away from Alaska but after living in California, Oregon and the Netherlands, they managed to return. In 1965, they settled in Fairbanks where Chuck was professor and then dean at the University of Alaska School of Engineering.
Jane soon returned to the classroom, teaching fifth grade for decades, and was Fairbanks Teacher of the Year in 1978. Later, her dramatic flare made her popular as the Science Resource Teacher for all Fairbanks elementary schools.
After retiring in 1987, Jane, with her son and husband, built a remote cabin along Chena River headwaters. She also served as Chair of the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Chuck and Jane then built a log home at the Kenai Lake property she held for more than 70 years.
Jane’s volunteer activities included St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, Fairbanks Food Bank, University of Alaska Museum, and the lively Cooper Landing Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners.
Jane is preceded in death by her husband, Charles Edward Behlke; her parents, her stepfather, Raymond James; and brother, Paul C. McMullen. She is survived by her children, Susan Foley (Richard), Carol Fox (Jerry), and James Behlke (Liz) and grandchildren Matthew and Chad Foley, Dylan and Kelsey Fox, and Aurora Behlke.
When she realized she would need assistance due to Alzheimer’s, Jane chose to live at the Alaska Pioneers Home, where long-time residence in Alaska is honored. Her family is thankful for the skilled and loving care she received there.
Jane saw to it that one of her final outings was to Seward for a Fourth of July Celebration.
Remembrances may be sent c/o 4400 E. 135th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99516. Memorial donations to benefit the elderly and hungry may be made to the Jane Behlke Fund, the Alaska Community Foundation, 3201 C St., #110, Anchorage, AK 99503.