Jan Wetterer "A Life Remembered, A fan of and supporter of our Band
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Jan Wetterer, who died July 8 at the age of 81. Her obituary was published in the July 9 edition of The Herald-Mail.
SHARPSBURG, Md. – The town of Sharpsburg lost a selfless advocate when Jan Wetterer died unexpectedly this month.
It had been years since her family had attended the Maryland Symphony Orchestra Salute to Independence at Antietam Battlefield and this year they decided to go. Jan, who had been having balance problems for several years, didn't feel comfortable going and instead ended up in the Emergency Room, with what turned out to be a mild stroke.
A huge fan of the patriotic music the MSO plays for that concert, granddaughter Laura Oates of Keedysville called her grandmother from the battlefield, so Jan could hear the music even though she wasn't there. Jan was also a big fan of the New Horizons Band, which husband Ernie played trumpet in.
The oldest of Walter and Myrta Jacobson's two children, Jan and her brother, who died four years ago, were close.
She was born in Charleston, S.C. and the family moved often, as her father, who managed W.T. Grant and Montgomery Ward stores, was transferred to different stores. They moved to New Jersey and several towns in New York state, before ending up in Flushing, N.Y., where Jan graduated from high school in 1949. She then attended Hunter College for a year in Manhattan.
Ernest "Ernie" Wetterer grew up in Manhattan and had recently moved to Long Island. He had heard about an active youth group at Jan's church and went to the church to attend a youth meeting.
Jan was helping serve refreshments and Ernie walked into the kitchen, where they struck up a conversation.
"We started talking. That was it. It was love at first sight. I felt so at ease talking to her," Ernie said.
He kept coming back for youth meetings and joined the church. Ernie was 21 and Jan 18 when they met.
Ernie proposed on Valentine's Day 1951 and they got married on Aug. 30, 1951, the start of a happy, almost-63-year union. Lynn was born in July 1952, followed by Daniel at the end of August, 1953.
Both were born at the Naval Hospital near Memphis, Tenn., after Ernie was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps not long after their wedding. He served for two years.
While he was at boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., Ernie received a letter from Jan every day. He admitted he had good intentions, but "couldn't keep up" with her letter writing.
During that time, Jan was worried about him getting cold during the winter months, so she sent him a pair of leather gloves with fur lining, which were intercepted by Ernie's drill instructor and the cause of endless ribbing.
Jan was "very concerned" Ernie would be sent overseas, so after boot camp, when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune and Camp Millington, she insisted on going with him. They then lived in New York and Charleston, W.Va., where Thomas "Tom" was born in 1959.
The Wetterers moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1961 for Ernie's job as a radar technician with the Federal Aviation Administration.
When Ernie met Jan, she was working in a bank. After their children were born, though, they became Jan's priority and she stayed home to raise them. When Tom was 10, she started working as a teacher's aide.
"She was always there. In addition to listening, she usually had wise advice. I could rely on her to help me through things in life," said Tom, who lives in Washington, D.C., in a phone interview.
"People gravitated to her and would call, because she listened to everything you had to say. She made you feel like you mattered," said daughter Lynn DiCarlo of Keedysville.
Jan worked in a kindergarten class with five to six deaf students. The teacher didn't know sign language and Jan learned sign language from one of the parents. The Wetterers boarded two deaf girls for a time, which had its own challenges, Ernie said.
Jan also became a certified graphologist, trained in handwriting analysis, and opened her own business.
After Lynn and her family moved to Washington County, she "kept talking up" the area to her parents. Tired of a grueling commute, Ernie decided to retire in 1986 and he and Jan moved to Sharpsburg in 1987.
"It was quite a change. This was the first small town we lived in," Ernie said.
In no time, the couple was volunteering at Antietam National Battlefield, which was about a mile from their home. They did that for about 15 years.
Grandson Daniel "Danny" Wetterer Jr. of Martinsburg, W.Va. said his family moved from the Washington D.C. area in 1995, but before that, he enjoyed spending summers with his grandparents. In Aug. 1996, just shy of his 43rd birthday, Daniel Wetterer Sr. died.
Over the years, Jan taught her children and grandchildren to get involved, modeling by example.
"She was a strong woman who raised her kids and grandkids to speak their mind, get involved and be proactive . . . She taught us not to just volunteer, but take on leadership roles," granddaughter Laura Oates of Keedysville said.
When Jan heard that the Sharpsburg railroad station was going to be torn down, she sprang into action and called the county commissioners. The station still stands.
"She had a very inquisitive mind. She had to get to the bottom of it," Ernie said.
"She was not one to sit and complain. She'd fix it," said granddaughter Sarah Baker of Keedysville.
Jan was past president of Boonsboro Historical Society, member of Sharpsburg Historical Society, Washington County Historical Advisory Committee and Antietam National Battlefield Advisory Committee, past member of the Washington County Zoning and Appeals Board, and Boonesborough Days planning committee, among other things.
She faithfully attended Sharpsburg town meetings and for 20 years, was editor of the Sharpsburg Town Crier.
Jan also was on the Sharpsburg Memorial Day Parade committee, watching the parade closely from her front porch where the family gathered, referring to the parade lineup to make sure all the units were in order and getting "flustered if something was out of order", Laura said.
It was through her connection through volunteering at the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University that Jan was able to get Mary Tyler Moore as the 1994 grand marshal for the parade.
Granddaughter Erin Dixon of Keedysville said Jan enjoyed having each of her grandchildren, and now the great-grandchildren, over for one-on-one time. Laura said after she got married, she and Jan would cook together and they always had to try new recipes.
"It wasn't so much that cooking was her favorite hobby. It was more about the relationship and the sharing and bonding we did through the cooking," Laura said.
Jan was famous for turning the ordinary into a much anticipated tradition. Wednesdays had become pizza and salad night with Erin's daughter, Jasmine, followed by a game of Scrabble.
Jan and Ernie also enjoyed traveling and would take one or two grandchildren with them on car trips to places such as Chicago, Niagara Falls or to Alabama for a family reunion. They took Erin to Massachusetts after she completed her fifth-grade project on the state.
Family members were reminded to vote by Jan, who shared her thoughts on candidates and issues, but was also willing to listen if they had a differing opinion. Many petitions were distributed by Jan over the years about issues important to the community.
Despite being a city boy, Jan gradually converted Ernie to an animal lover like herself. She was especially concerned about stray cats and they adopted several over the years.
She also fed the backyard wildlife, including raccoons, opossums and skunks.
Jan's death took the family by surprise, as she seemed to be doing well after her return home from her stroke. Her life touched many and she was greatly appreciated by her family and friends.
"It was mutual. We always took care of each other. She always looked out for my welfare," Ernie said.