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Jane Gentry Vance

1941 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Jane Gentry Vance Obituary

Vance, Jane Gentry,

73, celebrated poet and Professor Emerita of English at the University of Kentucky, died Thursday, October 2, 2014, at Taylor Manor Nursing Home, with her daughters by her side.

The cause of death was cancer. She was born in Lexington, KY, on February 9, 1941, into a farm family in Athens, KY. Her parents were the late Charles Blanding Gentry and Dixie Walker Gentry. Her forebears in the Gentry and Bush families have lived in the area of Athens since the time of the settlement at Boonesboro. Her maternal grandfather, Clarence Walker, was pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington from 1916 through 1966.

Jane's deep sense of connection to central Kentucky and to her ancestors became a guiding principle in her life and work. She began writing poems in high school and earned degrees in English Literature from Hollins College (B.A., Phi Beta Kappa), Brandeis University (M.A.), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Ph.D.), then returned to Kentucky to teach and write. During her forty years as a professor at UK (the last sixteen as full professor), she conducted poetry-writing workshops in the English Department and taught courses on the history of ideas in the University's Honors Program. In 1986 she won the UK Alumni Association's Great Teacher Award, an honor she valued highly because Honors Program students nominated her. Jane's poems appeared widely in literary journals and numerous anthologies. As a poet, she wrote with insight of family, of the intricacies of our emotions, and of the ironies of everyday life. Her most recent collection of poems, "Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig," was published in 2006 by Louisiana State University Press, which also published her previous collection, "A Garden in Kentucky," in 1995. She was awarded two Al Smith Fellowships by the Kentucky Arts Council (1993 and 2003), and held fellowships at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, and at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Lynchburg. In 2007-2008, she served as Kentucky's Poet Laureate and traveled the state advocating for the importance of literature in the culture and history of Kentucky. In 2008, she organized and participated in a reading of Kentucky poetry at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and in 2009 she read a poem honoring the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth at the Kennedy Center in the nation's capital. In May 2013, she won Hollins University's Distinguished Alumnae Award, and in October 2013, after her retirement from the University, she was inducted in the UK College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, the highest honor awarded by the College. A forty-year resident of Versailles, she served as a member of the vestry at St. John's Episcopal Church. Her daughters, extended family, and wide circle of friends treasured her trenchant intelligence and humor, her deep empathy, and her unfailing generosity.

Her survivors include her two daughters, Lucy Gentry Vance Seligson (Gary Seligson) of South Orange, New Jersey, and Susannah Clayton Vance Gopalan (Arun Gopalan) of Washington, DC; two grandsons, Jacob Walker Seligson and Andrew Vance Seligson, of South Orange, New Jersey; brother, Charles Blanding Gentry, Jr. (Shirley), of Paris, Kentucky; former husband, Philip Thomas Vance, of Lexington; cousins Richard W. Johnson, James K. Johnson, Janet Glo Stokes, Shirley Walker Daley, Emmy Glo Purdom, Dixie D. Purdom, Marilyn Talley, Thomas W. Dulin, John H. Dulin, Caie Dulin, Nancy Kay Harvey, Raye Ann Thomas, and Judy Faulconer; two nieces, Charlotte Bush Gentry and Jodi Gentry Hall; and one nephew, Nicholas Benjamin Gentry.

She was preceded in death by her companion, William Hall Strode III.

A visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home, 463 East Main Street, Lexington. On Friday, October 10, services will be held at St. John's Episcopal Church, 210 North Main Street, Versailles. A visitation will be held 9:30 through 11 a.m., followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m., followed by a reception in the parish hall of the church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington (; 859-254-4175) or to the Pastoral Care Fund at St. John's (; 859-873-3481).

Published in The Courier-Journal from Oct. 5 to Oct. 7, 2014
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