Jane W. Dickinson, a retired executive secretary and community activist, died Feb. 13 of complications from a stroke at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson. She was 94.
"Jane was outgoing and friendly and was involved in everything in a very conservative and quiet way," said Dottie Stieff, a longtime friend and Blakehurst neighbor.
"She was extraordinary and was a combination of a refined and cultured lady and everything that is fine in a woman," said Rebecca L. Ward, a former Riderwood neighbor who is a Baltimore psychotherapist. "She had an impeccable manner and even though she was extremely wealthy, never put on airs."
The daughter of Charles Herman Wagner, president of the American Oil Co., and Rachel Whaler Wagner, a homemaker, Jane Wagner was born in Kalamazoo, Mich.
She was raised in Kalamazoo, Chicago and South Bend, Ind., where she graduated in 1938 from St. Mary's College High School.
She attended Hollins College for a year before enrolling at Duke University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1941. She earned a master's degree in education in 1965 from Goucher College.
She moved to Baltimore with her family and from 1941 to 1943 was executive secretary for the Petroleum Industry Commission.
In 1943, she married Elbert F. Sherwood Dickinson, president of Sherwood Feed Mills Inc. on President Street. She worked there as executive secretary from 1943 to 1979, when the business closed and she and her husband retired.
Mrs. Dickinson's community involvement began in the 1950s, when she was a member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, served as chairman in 1957 of the Baltimore Mental Health Drive and was district chairman in 1958 of the American Cancer Society Drive.
In 1968, she was chairman of the Baltimore United Appeal, and she served for many years on the board of managers of the Pickersgill retirement home in West Towson, where the new addition was completed during her time on the board.
She was a longtime member of the Three Arts Club of Homeland, where she was secretary from 1958 to 1960, and served on its board of governors from 1960 to 1964, and again from 1967 to 1970. She was president of the organization from 1970 to 1972.
During her tenure on the Three Arts Club board, the club's new headquarters building on Wyndhurst Avenue in Roland Park was completed.
She served three terms, 1960 to 1964, 1986 to 1988 and 1992 to 1994, as a member of the board of the Woman's Club of Roland Park.
Mrs. Dickinson, who had lived in Homeland, Poplar Hill and Riderwood, was an avid gardener and a member of the Cliff Dwellers Garden Club in Roland Park, where she assisted with the club's booth at the annual FlowerMart.
Mrs. Dickinson, who was considered a knowledgeable and savvy investor, established three investment clubs whose membership was all female, said a daughter, Carolyn Dickinson Vane of Sparks. In the course of nearly 40 years, she founded the Substandard and Poor, Novice 12, and the Blue Chip investment clubs.
"Her father gave her some money in the 1960s, and she invested it and just nailed it," said Ms. Vane. "She did so well that she had my sister's room redecorated and sent me to camp."
"Jane was the guru of our investment club, Substandard and Poor, and she was absolutely wonderful. She was one of the brightest people I think I've ever known, but she never let on. She was just remarkable," said Mrs. Stieff.
The investment club disbanded several years ago, said Mrs. Stieff.
"A lot of our members had died and when we disbanded, we all got a little money, and I put mine in Under Armour when it was at $23, and every time I saw Jane, I'd remind her how well it had done," said Mrs. Stieff.
Mrs. Dickinson, whose husband died in 1984, had lived at Blakehurst for the last 19 years.
Mrs. Dickinson was an inveterate world traveler and had visited five of the seven continents. "This was her passion," said Ms. Vane.
"She was so down to earth and had a wonderful sense of adventure. She loved to talk about anything and go anywhere. She was an independent spirit," recalled Ms. Ward. "I have a picture of Jane in Mexico in a wetsuit snorkeling. She was 80."
She was a communicant and active committee member at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.
In addition to Ms. Vane, she is survived by another daughter, Diane Dickinson Clem of Rockville; and four grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun