Jane Lerner (born Margery Jane Hingle) passed away December 16, 2020 at age 73. She died in the loving arms of her husband Ron at their home in Bozeman, MT after a 6 month battle with cancer.
Jane was born April 2, 1947 in Dallas, TX to Arthur Thomas Hingle and Margery Hingle (née Margery Hervey). She was the oldest of 6 children including 3 sisters, Gillian, Anne, and Bridget, and 2 brothers, Michael and Peter.
At 12 years old, while living in Bellaire, TX, Jane befriended the boy across the street, Ron Lerner. In high school they dated, in college they dated seriously, and on April 8, 1972 they were married in Dallas, TX. It was a beautiful 48 year marriage marked by mutual respect and pursuit of shared dreams.
From a young age Jane demonstrated a unique blend of striking intelligence and contagious compassion. She was a gifted student, excelling at Bellaire High School while marching as a member of the “Bellaire Belles”, an experience she often recalled fondly. She went on to complete undergraduate studies and then an MBA at University of Houston before entering the workforce. After a few years she decided the world of business was not for her so she went to law school earning her JD from University of Houston. It is worth noting that despite being pregnant nearly her entire final year of law school she still graduated 2nd in her law class, a “slight” which she then responded to by scoring the highest score in history on the State of Texas Bar Exam.
During that final semester of law school she bore her only child, Jeffrey Michael Lerner, studying for the bar while nursing him. Combining caring for her family and community with high professional achievement would become a hallmark of her life.
She secured employment at one of the top law firms in the country, Fulbright & Jaworski, and began a 20+ year stint in the Trusts and Estates department where she eventually rose to Partner. Despite a rigorous work schedule she was also heavily involved in raising her son. At Jeffrey’s school she was a visiting teacher in the “Art a la Carte” program that taught great art to Jeffrey’s classmates and when frustrated by the school’s lack of a school bus she rallied dozens of other parents together to organize a private busing program that continues to this day.
She was a consummate problem solver and loved her work as a volunteer for numerous organizations that usually ended up putting her in a leadership position once her talents for managing people and projects became obvious. She represented Fulbright on the board of Houston Grand Opera where she helped organize a program to give internships to talented young music students and later spent much time and energy helping organize and work on projects around the world for Habitat for Humanity. Her deep desire to help those in need sometimes got her in trouble. On one such occasion in the Philippine Islands while helping construct new housing in the slums of Manila she fell off a ladder and sustained minor injuries. Not wanting to lose her passionate energy HFH opted to promote her to head of garbage patrols rather than send her home, a role which she was able to fulfill without having to step out of the truck.
In 1997 she and Ron built their dream home in Bozeman, MT and retired there a short time later. Her retirement was marked by a continuing commitment to service and volunteer work, notably with the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, and Bridger Canyon Fire Department, and finally her most passionate work as a loving mother-in-law and grandmother to Jeffrey’s family – wife Jaqueline, and children Braxton, Jace, Jada, and Stella.
For all of her achievements Jane’s most remarkable qualities were her humility, humor, and palpable commitment to those less fortunate. She rarely spoke of her own accomplishments and was much quicker to compliment others than to seek one for herself. She loved to laugh and had a habit of rolling her eyes at her husband’s and son’s sophomoric senses of humor while at the same time (almost) always laughing along. She loved fixing problems, especially those that could be solved by unifying people and aligning their interests.
Jane is survived by her husband Ron, her son Jeffrey, her daughter-in-law Jaqueline, her grandchildren Braxton, Jace, Jada, and Stella, her brother Peter, her sisters Gillian, Anne, and Bridget, her cat Tiger, her nephews Duncan and Taylor, her nieces Audrey and Alex, and a long list of friends and family whose lives she blessed with her love, time, energy, and support.
She was predeceased by her mother Margery, her father Thomas, her brother Michael, and numerous pets who she loved as family.
Her last words were to her son, “We had a good run kiddo”, and to her husband telling him she loved him.
Her wish was to be cremated and that upon the future passing of her husband Ron their ashes, “along with all cremated pets”, will be scattered into the creek at their fishing cabin where they spent much of their time.
No Memorial Service is planned at the current time due to COVID related travel restrictions.
No gifts are desired or needed by the family; however, Jane would be quite happy if any generous impulse is redirected toward a deserving cause.
“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”
Letter of Remembrance
by Ron Lerner (husband)
Earlier this week my wife and friend for 48 and 61 years respectively, died in my arms. Jane was known by many in Bozeman, MT as well as Houston, TX. She was educated at the University of Houston, completing both her MBA and JD. As an attorney at one of the world’s premier law firms, Fulbright & Jaworski, she was one of the first women hired by a traditionally male bastion and later one of their first female partners.
Over the years Jane served many clients and organizations with her teacher-like ability to communicate difficult legal concepts and terminology. She chose estate planning as her specialty in part because it allowed her to serve people as a source of comfort and certainty in difficult times and she represented all her clients to the best of her abilities, regardless of wealth or station. She was instrumental in enlightening the firms’ other partners as to the wisdom of hiring more women, not only for their legal skills but for the fact many women are more comfortable having a female attorney.
One of her earliest accomplishments took place while in graduate school when she co-founded “Project Eve”. While working a part-time job at the University, she was working for a one-time official of the U.S. Department of Labor who inspired in her a vision to help women into the workforce. Once launched Project Eve proved an outstanding success as it lobbied school districts to allow women to enroll in vocational education classes which had traditionally only been open to men. Young ladies with blow torches, auto mechanic equipment, and woodworking tools soon were showing the community “we can do this”. It did not take long for local industry to start hiring many of these young women upon graduation.
After 20 years at the firm, we both retired at ages 51 and 50 years, respectively, and moved to Bozeman at the end of 1999. We had built a home in Bridger Canyon in 1997, which we planned to live in for the rest of our lives. Jane was at our home watching the deer and elk in our yard against a backdrop of mountains and forest as she fought the scourge of cancer. From discovery to her death were 6 difficult months of treatment while doctors tried to control her pain. We should all hope science with its new abilities, recently gained through genomics, can accelerate a real solution to cancer, as opposed to treating symptoms. It is an immense challenge.
While living in Bozeman, led by Jane’s desire to “do good for good people and good causes”, she served for several years as President of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, now called Yellowstone Forever (https://www.yellowstone.org/who-we-are/). The result of her and others’ efforts resulted in a public-private partnership raising tens of million of dollars, including some $23 million for the then new, Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Another project near and dear to our hearts was to bring the community together to agree to and raise the required funding for the new Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter (https://www.heartofthevalleyshelter.org/). As animal lovers ourselves with cats, dogs, and horses, we were so delighted by the community’s embrace of the shelter’s well-being which continues today. Finally, Jane was asked to bring together conflicting parties at the Bridger Canyon Fire Department (https://bridgercanyonfiremt.gov/). The background of this conflict is past history, but the success story of the restructured fire department is good reading as the department now carries an outstanding rating for jobs well-done, including the most recent and extremely dangerous Bridger Canyon fire this summer.
Jane was a unifier, and whenever she got involved in something peace, cooperation, and a whole lot getting done inevitably resulted. She was truly an amazing resource for our community. It is appropriate to end this tribute by saying with as much as she was involved in, she was always the most incredibly sweet and caring wife and mother to our son Jeffrey.
She will be missed.