Jane Best devoted her life to charitable causes

Jane Best once said she came of age in a time when “mothers didn’t work, except at being mothers.” With a lifetime of generosity and service to the Everett community where she made her home, she proved that idea wrong.

Jane B. Best died Tuesday. She was 88. She was the widow of Robert Best, publisher of The Everett Daily Herald from 1939 until his death in 1976.

“She just had this strong, positive feeling about her community,” said Larry Hanson, retired publisher of The Herald. “When her husband died so suddenly, it would have been easy for her to step back and not be as involved. Instead, she increased her involvement.

“The community has lost a tremendous energy in Jane Best,” Hanson said.

A service and celebration of Jane Best’s life will be at at 3 p.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett.

The daughter of Beatrice and Albert Broesamle, Jane was born Dec. 5, 1916, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

She is survived by her children, Melissa Morgan and Robert Best Jr. Bob Best Jr. was also publisher of The Herald for two years in the 1970s after his father died. He could trace that position back two generations. His grandfather, James Best, was publisher until his death in 1922, when his grandmother, Gertrude Best, took over.

The Best family sold The Herald to The Washington Post Co. in 1978.

Interviewed in 2001 for The Herald’s 100th anniversary, Jane Best said she never considered taking the helm of the newspaper when her husband died. “It was no role I ever wanted to take,” she said.

Instead, she devoted her life to family, friendships, the arts and charitable causes so numerous they surprised even her son.

Going through her things, Bob Best found an astonishing collection of thank-you letters and acknowledgements. “She had a very strong sense of community and wanted to support it not just financially but in any number of community efforts,” Best said. “I had no idea.”

In 2000, Jane Best and her children established the Best Family Fund through the nonprofit Greater Everett Community Foundation. The fund makes annual grants, said Mark Nesse, foundation president and director of the Everett Public Library.

“The fund’s purpose is to help people connect with the community resources they need to make positive changes in their lives,” Nesse said.

Jane Best gave time as much as financial support. She was involved in the Trinity Episcopal Church altar guild, Camp Fire, the Everett Woman’s Book Club, a committee to refurbish the governor’s mansion in Olympia, the Junior Club and United Way.

All her life, she nurtured friendships.

“She was a true friend. I loved her dearly,” said Mary Duryee of Everett. The two had known each other since high school, when Jane came to Everett to visit an aunt. “Our paths crossed again in college, and then she married Bob Best, who had lived across the alley from me,” Duryee said.

Jane graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in history in 1938 and married Everett-born Robert Best Sr. in 1941. During World War II, she lived at the family’s summer home at Priest Point. According to her son, she served on a ration board and was a spotter for enemy planes.

In 1947, the couple moved to an elegant north Everett home, where they spent the rest of their lives.

“She was a wonderful, wonderful person,” said Rose Ellen Hunter, another lifelong friend from Everett. “She was very intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor and was interested in the stock market. She had quite a game with that.

“She appreciated art and loved the ballet,” Hunter said.

Although Best lost her eyesight in her last years, Hunter said she continued to go to the Pacific Northwest Ballet to hear the music.

“She was so full of courage,” Duryee said. In the last months of her life, plagued by pain and physical difficulties, “she carried it all with such dignity. She never complained,” Duryee said.

“She had a gracefulness about her, an innate grace,” said Bob Best Jr., 58, who now lives in Seattle.

“She was one of those people who always stayed positive. Occasionally, she would make a comment that had some evaluation, but you weren’t going to get boatloads of criticism from her. It was a pleasure to be around her,” Best said.

Growing up, he remembers a house filled with people. “She had so many friends, and that always continued,” he said.

Despite challenges of age and illness, he said, “she didn’t complain, she didn’t let on. She had enormous grace and courage.”

Since losing both his parents, Best said he’s gained new insights through the reactions of so many people they touched with their lives.

“I see them in a different light,” he said. “I appreciate them even more.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

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