The Beacon (Acton, MA)
"'The Ultimate Volunteer' leaves behind smiles, warm memories
Jane Poole was not the type of person to sit home and knit sweaters after she retired. She was always moving -- athletic, giving, involved in her community. It was not unusual to spot Poole out on her bike, tooling around town doing errands, going to aerobics classes, organizing social events.
She died April 16 of a heart attack, at the age of 70, doing what she loved, leading a group of bicyclists on an annual Patriot's Day bike ride in Lincoln [sic] (should be Lexington).
Poole, a retired Westford kindergarten teacher, was an active member of the Nashoba Valley Pedalers, a group of bicyclists who go on monthly trips all over the state. She also contributed her boundless energies to the American Association for Retired People, the Concord Piecemakers (a quilting group) and the First Parish Unitarian Church in Chelmsford, among other organizations.
A mother of three, Poole will be missed by the many diverse groups who knew her. 'She was the ultimate volunteer,' said Jean James, a fellow pedaler and friend of Poole's for over 10 years. 'She wasn't willing to become inactive. She definitely wanted to stay active for as long as she could.' Poole did nothing halfway, putting 100 percent of herself into any project. When she decided to start biking during the gas crisis of 1973, she didn't stop at a few miles a day. She averaged 350 miles a month at one point in her bicycling career, logging several 100-mile day trips with her fellow bikers.
She even went overseas, making several European biking trips including one 2 years ago to the Soviet Union.
While Jane Poole was always an outdoor person, her daughters said they don't remember her as an avid athlete while they were growing up They do remember the tireless giving of her time to such things as girl scouts, the church, and making crafts for charity fairs.
She taught kindergarten at the Robinson School in Westford for 15 years, and later was a substitute teacher for the Acton school systems in her semi-retirement. 'She was a friendly, giving person. She was the type of person that if her students didn't have bags to carry their books in, she would have them make book bags.'
Poole grew up in New York City and went to Skidmore College for a degree in textiles. She received her master's in education from Northeastern.
She also devoted time to her alma mater, helping Skidmore alumni club organize a reunion of the class of 1942. 'She was always a great planner, always looking ahead.'
Donations in Poole's memory can be made to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, suite 300, 1400 Sixteenth St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Poole worked hard in her life to turn the railroad tracks which start in Lowell and go through Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, and Sudbury, into a bike path. Her daughters said they will be working with a lawyer to ensure any donations made in Poole's memory will go to the Lowell-Sudbury bike path."
For some of us long-time members of the NVP, the Groundbreaking for Phase 2A of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail has a special significance in addition to the opportunities provided by having another place to ride that's free of motorized vehicles. Back in the 1980s one of our most popular and enthusiastic members was a retired schoolteacher called Jane Poole. At various times, she was a board member, ride leader, club President, organizer of the Century and a great ambassador for the club that recruited many members.
In her retirement, she often rode over 5000 miles a year. Many of them were on club business; she would use her bicycle to deliver copies of Pedalings to all members in Acton where she lived. The Pedaler used to be called Pedalings in those days, of course it was all on paper then and mostly delivered by USPS.
Before retirement, Jane taught first grade in Westford. I bet that some club members remember her from their earliest days, even if they do not remember her from the club. I first met her in 1987 at NEAR (New England Area Rally). This was the year that the event was at UNH in Durham
Jane was one of our most energetic ride leaders. The wallpaper on the hallway to Jane’s kitchen was a set of USGS maps of our area and she would use them to show her routes to you. My wife Betsy Taylor-Kennedy lived in an apartment in Bolton in the late 1980s and she remembers how Jane explained the best way for Betsy to commute to work in Acton by running her fingers along the lines on this wall.
Jane rode a red Georgena Terry with straight handlebars. The bike had the trademark Terry small front wheel and was built when Georgena’s bikes were still handmade in upstate New York. It must have been one of the first Terrys to be sold in Massachusetts and definitely one of the first Terrys I had ever seen. When Jane was not using her bike for transport she did not use a gas-guzzler. She drove a small Geo.
All of this brings me to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail because Jane was also an early supporter of efforts to convert what was then called “the Sudbury to Lowell Railway line” to non-motorized transport. This was at a time when there were still occasional freight trains making deliveries to the lumber yards on Route 27 in Acton. Jane led a number of hikes along the railway bed in about 8-mile increments. Of course, she did this at times when there were no trains! I can remember one hike in particular that took us by what has been one of the most contentious sections of the planned trail; the section adjacent to White's Pond in Concord.
Jane died of a heart attack while leading her annual Patriots’ Day ride in April 1990. She was about 70 years old. She knew that she was weak and was waiting for heart surgery at the time. I wasn’t on that ride, but it's possible that some of our current members were there. Jane had been a general inspiration to us all.
A large contingent from the NVP attended her memorial service in Chelmsford. Afterwards the club raised money and paid for a memorial to her in the form a stone bench and small garden in the Acton Arboretum, but a condition of installation of the seat was that when the railway bed was converted through Acton it would be moved to a suitable place next to the trail. Some of the money was raised at the Jane Poole Metric Century in the spring following Jane’s death. The start point was near her home in Nagog Woods and her daughters were there to see us off.
I am pleased to tell you that the Town of Acton has committed to move it in to place when Phase 2A is completed.