Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
Living up to her last name, Jane Wolfe is, frankly, like a wolf. She’s always on the move.
I’ve known her since I was chubby in a bathing suit attempting to be a synchronized swimmer. Jane was my instructor. More often than not, I forgot my noseclips. Jane remembers. I’m pretty sure it was she who signed my ‘I Forgot My Noseclips Award’ back in 1993.
And then, many years later, when I had my own kids and started taking them swimming at the pool on Wednesdays, I saw Jane again. She had five adorably brave kids hanging on to her and splashing about. I watched her in awe as she encouraged (and obviously supervised) a two-year-old to take a jump into the pool. The tiny tot went right under. And didn’t even choke and gag. Jane told me if I wanted the same results with my son that I should probably stop worrying about getting my hair and makeup wet. He would be more inclined to go underwater by me showing him. I thought, ‘Oh. That makes a lot of sense. But maybe I’ll just dunk my face so I don’t have to blow dry.’
That story tells you about the kind of person Jane is (and I guess me, too). You see, Jane is a swimming instructor. She has been since the pool opened up in 1986. She’s also been a daycare provider for 30 years and I’m pretty sure that alone says something about her willingness to take on a challenge. It’s sort of funny because she doesn’t even look old enough to have done something like that for three decades. She’s got a spunkiness to her and a zest for life that is apparent in her upbeat attitude. She smiles a lot. I think she looks as good as she feels and it’s probably because she makes time to do things that make her happy.
“I think being with kids keeps you young,” she says.
Jane is a social butterfly and one of those people who thrives on being active. She leads bike, walk, swimming and running groups and if you miss a scheduled run or walk, Jane says, you don’t want to get “the call”. She cross-country skis in the winter, even at nighttime, and organizes an open water swim, at the crack of dawn, twice a week in the summer.
“I like to get people active,” she tells me. “I like to get people off the couch doing things, trying things they’ve never done. I tell them they’ve got to get out of the box.”
She’s been a devoted volunteer for the Terry Fox Run since its inception, canvassed for the Canadian Cancer Society, and has been instrumental in organizing the Kids Triathlon since 2003. She’s in charge of running the cheer squad for the Band on the Run event as well.
If I got paid for all the volunteer work, I’d be a rich person. I like helping out to make events successful. It’s fun to volunteer. If you can’t do it and be a part of it, volunteer.
She was the recipient of a Woman of Distinction Award in 2011 and the nomination took her completely by surprise and was a true honour to say the least. And she’s received another prestigious award since then. Last year, she won the Jan Glenn Memorial Award in the Huntsville Sports Hall of Fame for Female Sportsperson of the Year. She was also a torchbearer for the 2015 Pan Am games, and the only one in Canada to actually swim with the torch.
Her active lifestyle is perfectly suited for living in Muskoka. Its vast landscape has so much to offer. And out of all the places she’s been, including Dubai, England and even the Bahamas, where she lived for two years prior to moving to Huntsville, none can compare to it.
“Just the beauty of it,” she says of what she loves about her hometown. “The amount of things you can do. It’s a big playground. You can be down to the city to see a show and then back in the evening. You’re a half hour to Algonquin Park to do a million things. It’s the people, too. For the most part, I think, people are pretty relaxed here. It’s the best of both worlds, really.”
Clearly, it’s evident Jane doesn’t like to sit around. She likes to keep busy and she thoroughly enjoys testing her limits. In 2014, she participated in a full Ironman, and that was a real test of her strength and determination as an athlete. Last year, she went to Nashville to visit a friend and took part in her first marathon, and ended up winning first place in her age group.
She is well-known in the community. Jane’s got tons of friends. Some of them might describe her as an “inspiration” and a “motivator.” If she has friends who like to hibernate for the winter, chances are she won’t see too much of them. She’s out and about – running, walking, cross-country skiing – even when it’s chilly out. It just might mean she has to move faster.
Something about Jane that might surprise some people is that she’s got a real affinity for sewing. Downstairs in her Florence Street home, tucked away in the basement, Jane likes to get creative. She’s made wedding gowns and even dresses for entire bridal parties. It’s just something she does when she’s not running or walking or swimming or at the gym. It’s her down time.
A bunch of handmade aprons with colourful fabric hang on a line when she takes me downstairs. And then I enter her sewing room. I’m a little bit jealous she has her own space to retreat to.
“Is this where you go to get away from it all?” I ask her.
“I just like to sew,” she says.
“Is there anything you can’t do?” I ask her, astounded. Even within a few short minutes into our interview, I was already convinced she was an extraordinary person. She does a little bit of everything.
“You sound like some of my friends,” she laughs. “I feel better when I’m doing something.”