Cover photo for Jane C. Kern's Obituary
Jane C. Kern Profile Photo
1934 Jane 2020

Jane C. Kern

September 5, 1934 — September 5, 2020

To respect the need, to protect public safety; and to reduce long-distance travel in these difficult times; a Memorial service for Jane Carter Kern, 86, will be scheduled at a future date when travel and in-person gatherings are more appropriate.

She died in her sleep on September 5, 2020 at her home in Palatine.  Donations can be made in her name to the National Celiac Association, an invaluable resource to people living with celiac like Jane.

Jane left us exactly 86 years from the day she came into the world.   Born Milbury Jane Carter in Nashville, Tennessee she was the Daughter of high school teachers Merrill Carter (McMinnville, TN) and Dolly Sugg Carter (Dixon, TN).   She was the oldest of three siblings on the small family farm named “Tanglewood.”  Between her chores and her school work she loved to read and was a life-long fan of Walt Kelley’s Pogo comic strip.   She also spent hours tending her animals and exploring the world around her.  She would go with her father to buy chicken feed so she could select the feed sacks with patterns she liked for her mother to use to make her new clothes.  She grew up ingrained with the importance of caring for the land, plants and animals, and the people in her life.  She had a love of learning and was always willing to share her knowledge with the people in her life.

After graduating from Hillsboro Highschool she enrolled in the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing from which she earned a Bachelor’s of Nursing degree.  Besides studying nursing, she played flute in the Vanderbilt Concert Band where she met and fell in love with a young clarinetist and Navy ROTC midshipman from Louisville, Kentucky.  Charles R. Kern quickly fell for her warm friendly nature, her quick intelligent mind, her bright blue eyes, and her glowing smile.  The young couple divided their time between their studies and planning their future together and spent many warm Sunday afternoons walking around Radnor Lake near her family farm.   And many cool evenings indulging their love of music.

Marrying right after graduation, they moved to Norfolk Virginia where Jane worked as a nurse at a local hospital and Charles started his active duty Naval service.  Jane later reminisced often about how they spent the first three weeks in an empty apartment sitting on suitcases, how lonely she was when Charles was at sea, and how happy she was when he came home on leave.  They grew up a lot in Norfolk, especially after the arrival of their first child Milbury (Millie).  Their love also matured as they learned to work together in life even when it kept them apart.

Charles’ active duty wound down and they moved into a small house in Jeffersontown, Kentucky near his parents’ home outside of Louisville and he began his career as a chemical engineer. Millie was soon joined by Charles Joseph and then Robert, prompting their move to a larger home with a deep wooded yard. Jane loved that house.  But although she worked in the yard every chance she could between diaper changes and boo-boo kisses, the trees made it too dark for much of a garden. Winter in Louisville made a lasting impression on her and for the rest of her life she referred to cold, damp, biting days when it can’t decide whether to rain or snow as “Louisville Nasty.”  Summer evenings were filled with lightning bugs and the drone of cicadas, and Autumn nights were filled with the smell of burning leaves and roasting marshmallows.

After a few years, the family moved north to Palatine, Illinois where they would stay.  Their wide new yard had plenty of sun for Jane to fully express her passion for gardening.  She loved all manner of plants from exotic to native and had a special love for Daylilies and Irises which she collected, propagated, traded, and sold.  She often said that having her hands in the soil was “The most wonderful feeling of all, and could make everything all-right”.  When it rained she would often declare that the rich scent of damp earth after a rain nourished your soul just as surely as a good meal nourished your body. Her gardens were captivating green worlds exploding with riots of blooms, the chorus of birds, and the drone of insects.  So reminiscent of Tanglewood.   In the cool dark places beneath the leaves slinked her silent, liquid cats. In Winter she sold daylily and Iris bulbs. And dreamed of Spring.   As Winter eased in February or early March she would listen for one of her favorite sounds, the high trill of Sandhill Cranes migrating far above.  When she heard them passing over she would drag the family outside to look for them even on the coldest days. Cranes brought with them the promise of Spring.

As her children grew more independent Jane spent more time reading and attended lectures on spirituality, religion, science and Art.  She worked as a teacher’s aide at Cardinal Drive School in Rolling Meadows, and later took a job arranging flowers at Flower City in Palatine.  She also worked for Marcella Sauerland at Sauerland Flower Shop in Arlington Heights.  Floral design was an outlet for her artistic expression and she turned it into a fulfilling career by started her own business specializing in silk and dried flowers arrangements.  With Charles at her side she became a fixture at regional Art Fairs for a decade under the name Designs by Jane.

A long-time student of Yoga she taught Yoga and Tai Chi at the Palatine YMCA for 20 years allowing her to relate the importance of intentional movement, inner vision, and mind-body awareness to her many students.  Lovers of the performing arts, Jane and Charles were season ticket holders at the Lyric Opera and at Music of the Baroque in Chicago.  And she was a long-time supporter of the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI which she shared with her children and grandchildren.  Every Spring and Fall Millie could count on getting at least one phone call telling her to “Go outside and listen to the cranes!”

Jane was resting peacefully and listening to classical music the night she left us.  She is survived by her beloved husband Charles R. Kern; her children Milbury Kern Weir, Charles J. Kern, and Robert Kern; her brother-in-law Dick Zieman; her grandchildren Alison Weir, Ben Weir, Logan Weir, Ryan Kern, and Janelle Kern; great-granddaughter Penelope Weir; nieces Melinda Carter, Sharon Carter, Kirsten Carter, and nephew Daniel Zieman; grandnieces Freya Falls and Ada Lee Falls; great grandnephew Liam Falls; many dear friends; her beloved garden; and Mischief the cat.

She was preceded in death by her mother and father, her mother-in-law and father-in-law, her sister Margaret Zieman, and earlier this year by her brother Merrill Sugg Carter.

Though greatly missed, Jane lived a full and long life. She loved deeply and was in-turn deeply loved by those fortunate enough to share her life. Our love for her will keep her alive in our hearts and in our memories for the rest of our days.


“And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days…”

-sir James Russell Lowell

Sleep well, dear Jane.


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