Jane (Leonard) Hilson passed away peacefully in her home at the age of 77 on September 20, 2023.
Jane was born in Saginaw, Michigan on January 11, 1946, to Harrison “Red” and Sarah Leonard. In 1968 she earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and remained a loyal Spartan fan for all of her life, especially during college basketball season. After moving to New York State in 1969, she began her career as an elementary school teacher and proceeded to teach for 33 years in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central school system until she retired in 2002. Jane also earned a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Russell Sage College in 1976. She was a passionate educator who always emphasized trying to understand the individual needs and strengths of each student, and continued to share stories and memories long after she left the classroom.
After a particularly brutal (i.e., snowy) New York winter in 2014, Jane decided enough was enough and moved to Hilton Head Island. She loved the warm weather, being close to the ocean and especially enjoyed taking walks along the beach early in the morning. While in Hilton Head, Jane reconnected with the United Methodist faith in which she was raised. She quickly became an active member of the church community by volunteering in the soup kitchen, participating in the Bridge Builders program, and training to become a Stephen Minister in the church’s Stephen Ministry program. Jane found much comfort and energy from her involvement in these programs and from the church community. She was a giver, always willing to go out of her way to help anybody in need. As one friend remarked, “Jane had a big laugh, and an even bigger heart.” This epitomizes the person she was.
Her interests were varied, ranging from long distance cycling in her youth to studying issues around racial inequality and injustice later in life. Throughout her life she was an avid reader and enjoyed exercising. She LOVED giraffes, simply because she thought they were cool. Her biggest passion, however, was spending time with and supporting her friends and family.
Jane is survived by her son Justin (Kaleen Moriarty) Hilson, her brother Bob (Carmen) Leonard, and her beloved cat, Ebony, as well as many friends.
A celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, October 22 at 1:00pm at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church (https://hhiumc.com/donations/).