Jane Alexander - Lowell, Massachusetts


“A stunning citizen of the world”
Jane Alexander passed away suddenly at Lowell General Hospital on July 26 from mitral valve prolapse, causing MRSA endocarditis. She was 66 years old.
Jane was born in Brookings, SD, to Ruth and William Alexander. She graduated from Brookings High School in 1974. During high school she babysat for several families and volunteered at United Retirement center.
She attended Mt. Holyoke College, majoring in history, and doing volunteer work as a tutor and aide to children in the Holyoke Schools.
Following graduation from college in 1980, she worked at Parker Street shelter with unhoused adults in Boston, and the Pine Street Inn women’s clinic. There she saw women leave at 9AM when the overnight shelter closed with nowhere to go until 4PM when it reopened. These women avoided the daytime soup kitchens where they would be harassed (or worse) by men. They had nowhere to use a restroom. Most of all, these women were isolated, having lost connections with friends and family.
She and a co-worker at the women’s clinic, Eileen Reilly conceived of starting a daytime shelter for women. In 1982, they began serving women from the basement of Church of the Covenant, starting the Women’s Lunch Place.
Jane became the Executive Director for the next 20 years. She insisted on a philosophy of treating unhoused women with dignity, bringing plates to the table so they did not have to wait in line. Guests were also welcome to help cook, and volunteers and staff all sat down to share the meal. Fresh flowers and tablecloths always graced the dining room. She worked to create a community with celebrations, live music, and activities, such as visiting a sheep farm during lambing season. Eventually the program came to serve breakfast and lunch to over 100 women a day, offering legal advocacy, clothing, a children’s rooms, showers, laundry and much more. Jane’s drive and vision inspired and changed the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people who spent time in the Women’s Lunch Place’s bustling kitchen and warm, welcoming dining room over the years.
Jane received many awards for her work, including the Mount Holyoke College Mary Lyon Award and the Boston Celtics “Heroes Among Us” award. What Jane was most proud of, however, was creating a place where women like Stella and Margot – some of Boston’s most alienated and long-term unhoused women – felt safe to come inside.
Jane left the organization in 2002, and worked briefly as Renewal House executive director, and as development director at East Boston Ecumenical Community, and volunteered for the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and did medical work in Haiti.
She married Mark Johnson of Jamaica Plain in 2004. They moved to New Orleans in 2007, where she attended Tulane School of Social Work, obtaining her Master’s in Social Work.
She then worked in Moorhead, Minnesota, until 2016 as executive director of Churches United, a family shelter and daytime support program for the homeless. There she spearheaded an effort to create permanent housing and provided winter expansion regularly at the shelter. She and Mark separated in 2016 but remained good friends until his passing in 2018.
Along the way Jane cared for numerous great aunts, aunts and uncles as they aged, and as a godmother to several friends children. She maintained close friendships across long distances and over many years. She also became well known for her cakes that graced many of her friends’ tables, her toffee and “ginger dogs” that she made every Christmas.
She returned to Massachusetts to Dracut, MA 2016, where she lived with her sister Sarah Alexander. She worked for multiple families as a caretaker of elderly gentlemen and women for the past five years, helping them attend weddings, see friends, write their memoirs, and making their lives more connected and organized. She developed a close relationship with Paul Phillips in the last two years of her life, which brought her much happiness.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend her visitation on Thursday Aug. 4, 2022, at the O’Donnell Funeral Home  276 Pawtucket St. in Lowell from 4 to 7  p.m.
Her funeral service will be held on Saturday Aug. 27, 2022, at Friends Meeting at Cambridge.  5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA 02138 at 1:00 o’clock. E-condolences/directions at www.odonnellfuneralhome.com.
Those wishing may make contributions in her memory to Health Care without Walls at www.healthcarewithoutwalls.org, mailing address: 41 West Street, Boston, MA 02111.
Arrangements by Funeral Director James F. O’Donnell, Jr. (978) 458-8768.

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