Jane Elizabeth Kniffen was born in Patterson, NJ, on March 19, 1930, and she died on Oct. 19, 2011, in Vermillion, at the age of 81. She was a loving and devoted mother and wife.
Her parents were John and Beatrice Wyman and she was raised in Amityville, Long Island, NY. One of her childhood memories was viewing the still smoldering wreckage of the Hindenburg disaster from a rumble seat of her parents' automobile when she was 7 years old. She graduated from the Academy of St. Joseph High School in 1947 and went on to graduate from the State Teachers College in Plattsburgh, NY, in 1949, with a degree in Home Economics, and began a teaching career which spanned four decades. Her children fondly remember that she occasionally was their substitute teacher.
On August 23, 1954, she married Samuel K. Kniffen, a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, and together they started a family which resulted in six children and many grandchildren, all of whom she adored. Her husband's 25 year Air Force career resulted in her family being stationed in New Jersey, Ohio, and the Azores. In 1976, Jane and Sam moved their family to Vermillion, where he was a professor of business at The University of South Dakota. Sam passed away July 18, 2004.
Jane was very active in church organizations wherever the family lived, culminating in Vermillion. Jane was also a long-time member of the bell choir of the United Church of Christ.
One of her hobbies was collecting Hummel figurines, a hobby which started when her husband Sam began sending her Hummel figurines from his flights to Germany. She eventually accumulated dozens of rare Hummels which she proudly displayed in her living room.
Jane loved to play games and she especially enjoyed playing bingo. Throughout the 1980s she rarely missed a Tuesday night bingo session at the Vermillion American Legion. Every Christmas she looked forward to playing Milles Bornes with her children. Jane also enjoyed playing bridge with her friends and was a member of the "Tuesday Out to Lunch Bunch" for many years.
All her life she loved animals and she always had seed for the winter birds and corn for the squirrels. Her home always had cats, dogs and birds. Some of her favorite pets were the black and white cats Putch and Kitsa, and Molly, the black Labrador, and later her black standard poodle, Tara.
In 1943, when Jane was 13, her mother encouraged her to respond to a pen pal request in a comic book and she began what would become a lifelong pen pal relationship with the Brian Ellis family who live in England. In 1973, their son, Duncan spent the summer with the Kniffen family vacationing in the United States and Jane's daughter Nancy spent the summer of 1976 with the Ellis family vacationing in England and Spain. In 1979, after 36 years of correspondence, Jane and her pen pal Brian Ellis met for the first time, which resulted in an article in the Vermillion Plain Talk.
Jane always approached life with optimism and a wonderful sense of humor. Her family will always remember her twinkling green eyes.
She is survived by her sisters, Ellen (Michael) Tchninnis; and daughter, Donna, Lee, MA, and Lakshmi (Bruce) Voelker-Binder, and daughter, Heidi, Palm Springs, CA; her children, Samuel Jr., Vermillion, Jeffrey, Jerseyville, IL, Nancy (Tom) Craig, Vermillion, David, Vermillion, Keith, Dallas, TX, Brian (Amy), Madrid, IA; and her grandchildren, Chelsea (Dane) Jorgensen, Tommy, Daniel (Katy), Joshua (Julie), Sam, and Rylan Craig, Kyle and Bethany Kniffen, Colton and Wyatt Kniffen, Sam III, Pete, and Rosalie Kniffen and several great-grandchildren.
Jane was cremated according to her wishes, and her ashes will be mingled with her husband Sam's, and their urn will be buried in BluffView Cemetery in Vermillion at a later date.
Funeral services were Saturday, Oct. 22 at 11 a.m. at the United Church of Christ in Vermillion.
In Jane's memory, donations will be given to the hospice program here in Sanford Vermillion.
Her family is very grateful for the care and compassion of the staff at the Sanford Vermillion Care Center, and the kind assistance of the Hansen Funeral Home in Vermillion. hansenfuneralhome.com.