Jane McCoy, Veteran of World War II, loving mother, devoted friend of many, passed away at the age of 99, on May 16, 2016. Fresno's own "GI Jane" served her country during World War II as an Army Nurse, and lived a life filled with acts of unconditional love, bravery and selfless giving. Her sweet blue eyes and beautiful smile, her wry wit, modest yet strongly competitive spirit, blunt honesty yet great humility, and genuine compassion for others, will be dearly missed and forever loved. Jane was born in Fresno, CA on January 28, 1917, to Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Sweet. The family later relocated to Oakland, CA where Jane was raised along with her younger brother and sister. Jane was 5'2" full height as an adult. She was the shorter girl in her kindergarten class, the one that needed the thick rimmed, coke bottle glasses. But at the youngest of age, she was and remained the tom boy in every class. Her love of sport is recalled in her telling how she had to develop her "hook" shot in gym basketball to overcome the taller kids. At her 50 year high school reunion, a male schoolmate recalled, "Jane, I remember you playing baseball with the boys, and being better than most of them." She relished to play and compete, and lamented the lack of athletic programs and teams for girls in her youth. She graduated from Oakland High School in 1934, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she joined her beloved Tri Delta Sorority. Jane remained a Tri Delta supporter her entire life, mentoring young women or donating to the fellowship when she could, once attending a gathering as honored alumnae. And though Jane never had expectation for assistance in return for her years of devotion or donation, Tri Delta financially assisted Jane's granddaughter to go with Jane as her guardian to Washington D.C. in 2014, when the 97 year old former World War II nurse was selected for the Central Valley Honor Flight as an honored Veteran. Thank you, Tri Delta sisterhood, for your generosity. After Jane graduated from Cal Berkeley with a degree in Public Health Nursing, she went to work for the State Health Department in San Diego, CA. In 1943 Jane "Sweet" decided to enlist and serve, joining the Army Nurse Corps. She was assigned to the 111th Evacuation Hospital which used tents and moved frequently throughout Europe. She served on the front lines, the first stop for wounded soldiers. She was the only nurse assisting the only neurological surgeon in her unit. She did not talk much about her experiences in the war and if you asked her, she would modestly say she "just did my job" then smile and say "and shaved a lot of heads". Jane and her hospital received a unit citation for meritorious service. Jane was personally awarded a Bronze Star. Her commanding officer wrote, "1st Lieutenant Jane Sweet showed exceptional ability and resourcefulness in the performance of her duties. With tireless energy and enthusiasm she spent long hours in the operating room rendering superior assistance to the surgeon. Her cheerful, friendly attitude and meticulous attention to detail gave confidence to the patient and invaluable support to the operator. She performed her duties with unselfish devotion beyond the call of duty resulting in shorter hospitalization periods and the saving of lives." Upon her discharge in December of 1945, she returned to Oakland. She became a school nurse, and in 1949, she married Jesse Vernon McCoy. She retired from nursing in 1953, to raise her first child Martha. Her son, Stuart, was born in 1956. Soon after, the family returned to Fresno for good. Jane continued to be an avid tennis, golf and bridge player. She served as president of the Fresno Alumni Panhellenic Association, the Belmont Country Club ladies golf group and the Fresno Chapter of the American Contract Bridge League. She achieved Life Master Bridge Player status in 1972, and was a beloved member of the Fresno Chapter of the American Contract Bridge League. She played tennis well into her 80's, if not into her 90's, she had said. She never lost that spirit to play and compete, as two Fresno Bee articles reported when Jane was a "spry" 82, and later 84 year old member of the Clovis Tennis Club's women's league and was pictured in the newspaper "whipping a forehand across the net". It was only a few years ago that declining eyesight and Jane's pride made it too difficult to play the game of Bridge any longer. And though she greatly missed the intellectual and competitive nature of the game, the friendships developed over the many years of playing Bridge were the hardest part of giving up the game. She cherished you all. Jane lived a life devoted to family, friends and community. Whether serving her country, caring for patients, volunteering and driving cancer patients to appointments, mentoring young women involved with her sorority, teaching someone the game of Bridge, or getting on her knees on the driveway and using a mitt without much pad to catch her young son's pitches, she never complained, never faltered or quit, just gave of herself totally and unconditionally, with love and with joy. Even in death, Jane gave everything left to give, donating her body for medical science and research to the UC Schools of Medicine in northern California. Always the pragmatic intellect, she as well as her husband, Jesse, felt no need for ceremony and wished only that they may serve to benefit the medical education and advancement of others. Jane was blessed to live a long life. She was blessed by friends and family that admired and loved her. We were blessed to know her. Thank you for your service, 1st Lieutenant Jane "Sweet" McCoy. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Nana. Thank you, dear friend. God Bless you. We love you, forever and always. Jane was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years; her younger brother, Gilbert Sweet Jr.; and her younger sister, Alice Cullinane. She is survived by her children, Martha Wells and Stuart McCoy; grandchildren; great-grandchildren; great-great grandchildren, and her sister-in-law, Silvia Sweet, of Carmel Valley, CA. In lieu of flowers or a memorial service, Jane would have appreciated donations to Veteran Organizations supporting our Veterans; her Tri Delta Sorority www.tridelta.org/foundation ; or without question, the Fresno Chapter of her beloved Bridge Club, who inspire and promote new membership within the Fresno District http://www.acbldistrict22.com/522 . Jane's son can be reached via mail at P.O. Box 1123, Pismo Beach, CA 93448, for any inquiries, or at 805-540-1574.
Published in Fresno Bee on May 29, 2016.