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Jane Fields (1917 - 2012)

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Jane B. Fields

June 12, 1917 - October 31, 2012

SALEM - Jane Bellinger Fields was born in Sweet Home, Oregon, the only daughter of Lola Belle Cook and Dr. Ivan Bellinger, and a great-granddaughter of Judge C. B. Bellinger, who came with his family across the plains to settle in the Oregon Territory in 1847. She lost her father and brother in the flu epidemic of 1919, so moved with her librarian mother as jobs became available, living in Salem, Honolulu and Tacoma before graduating from high school.

She spent her early school years in Salem and attended Garfield Elementary school. Given a choice of which Sunday school to attend, she chose the Unitarian Church, because "they didn't talk down to me." She had already developed a strong-willed and confident spirit of inquisitiveness, independence, and engagement which would sustain her in the years to come.

She attended Willamette University, received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, and earned a Master's degree from Columbia University. She studied Asian History, and in 1936 visited Japan as a member of an international student delegation charged with developing mutual understanding, friendship and trust.

During World War II she lived in Washington, D.C. and worked for the Army Map Service helping translate captured Japanese maps. Her earlier association with Japanese and Japanese-Americans aroused the suspicions of her boss, but she refused to disown her friends, and an investigation by the FBI cleared her name.

She moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1952 with her husband and son, and enjoyed being a housewife. She served as the League of Women Voters' official legislative observer, and so participated in the fight for school desegregation and civil rights. She was a plaintiff in a suit to remove the line for "Race or Color" from the voter registration form.

In the 1970's she moved back to Salem, where she became a stalwart member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and where she pursued her passion for teaching. She taught at Mt. Angel and Chemeketa Community Colleges, and the Oregon State Penitentiary. Until three years before her death she spent one day a week at the Keizer Elementary school helping first and second graders learn to read, determined to instill in them the same passion for learning that had been nurtured in her.

Jane asked questions till the end, and knew that her life had purpose. She is survived by her son Jonathan, daughter-in-law Jacquie, granddaughter Paige, and great-grandsons Dylan and Miles.

A Celebration of Life will be held Nov. 17, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem church, 5090 Center Street, NE. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Partner Church Fund of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Salem, or to the church's memorial fund.

Published in StatesmanJournal on Nov. 8, 2012
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