July 15, 1921 – January 3, 2022
Fresno, Calif. – Our mother would often tell her children and grandchildren what her own father used to tell her as a young girl: “Raise a girl and you raise a family.”
Jane Euphemia McCollam Cleave died peacefully at her home on January 3, 2022 at the remarkable age of 100. She was born on July 15, 1921, to Millard E. McCollam and Euphemia Forbes McCollam in Sumner, WA where her father had founded the Washington State University Agriculture Experiment Station. When she was 10, her family moved back to California. As a young girl, she showed extraordinary talent in art and music. After graduating from high school in San Jose, she went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in design (decorative art at the time), and serving as president of her sorority. In Cal, she met her future husband John H. Cleave III (Jack) as they both chaperoned their respective pledge classes in a social exchange. Their romance was cut short by World War II, and Jack served as an officer during the war while she continued her education and got a job in San Francisco. Upon Jack’s return, they were married in 1946 and set up their first home in Telegraph Hill in SF while he completed his studies at Cal. Jack’s first job took them to Tulsa Oklahoma where, in 1948, their daughter Catherine was born. After finally returning to California in 1951, their son John H. Cleave IV was born in San Mateo in 1958.
The year 1958 also brought the family to Fresno where Jane lived for the next 63 years of her life. It would eventually become her beloved community and she believed in giving back to her community. His first love was the Fresno Art Center which later became the Fresno Art Museum. Early on, she knew she wanted to broaden young minds and their knowledge of art and its relationship to history. She developed a program for elementary students that has reached over 300 schools. She set up slideshows for the children and enthusiastically presented them herself and eventually recruited other volunteers. Her efforts led to her being named Educator of the Year by the Fresno County Alliance for the Arts, as well as being nominated for a Friend of Youth Award by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno. It also led to her serving as chair of education on the art museum’s board of trustees. Jane’s excellence in scholarship led her to become the museum’s volunteer art historian and essayist. Over the years, she has written artist biographies and art overviews for numerous exhibition catalogs, several magazine articles, and numerous articles for museum newsletters. She liked to organize some exhibitions herself. She has served as a lecturer and tour guide for the museum and chair of the museum’s exhibits committee. Jane served on the museum’s board of trustees for a number of years in many capacities and was eventually honored as a trustee emeritus of the museum.
Jack was most supportive of her many endeavors and proud of her accomplishments. He gave generously to the museum in her honor. He planned trips centered on visiting various museums and art exhibits throughout the United States and Europe. She would thrive on these trips, and he always liked to make her happy.
When her eldest child left for college and during the early years of the art outreach program’s development, Jane returned to college to earn her master’s degree in art and art history at the University of Cal Fresno. In addition to her volunteer work in the arts community, Jane herself was an artist and always had a project at hand. Her most prolific endeavors were her silk screens which she would donate to various arts fundraisers. His drawings and sketches have also been praised. She has developed and donated logos, program designs and artwork for numerous arts organizations over the years. She often taught neighboring children and her children’s friends how to do screen printing. In 1971, she was inducted into the Fresno Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters where she enjoyed years of their programs and many friendships.
Jane also served on the board of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and had fun playing the piano with her friends who formed the “Fearless Four” (2 pianos, 4 players, 8 hands). They would provide entertainment (with a touch of humour) for arts events and fundraisers and donate the proceeds to support the orchestra piano.
She never lost her love of the arts and sharing knowledge. She has always believed in the power of educating young people and giving back to her community. Her father’s words guided her through life. She passed it on to her own children and grandchildren. She was a force in all of our lives.
In addition to her parents, Jane was predeceased by her husband John H. Cleave III (Jack), her sister Dorothy M. Miller, and her son-in-law Randy Humphries. She is survived by her brother William F. McCollam (Sarah) of Monte Sereno, Calif.; daughter Catherine Humphries (Cathy) formerly of Mercer Island, WA and now Andover, MA; son John H. Cleave IV and wife Michelle of Fresno; 4 grandchildren: Rebecca Humphries, Daniel Humphries, Jane Humphries Cardoso (Rick) and Eleanore Humphries (Brian Wisniewski); and 4 great-grandsons: Eric and Will Cardoso and Kit and Cal Wisniewski,
The family express their sincere thanks to their son John Cleave for his constant care and love for his mother over the past few years. A small private service was held at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Fresno. The family requests that any donations to honor her life be sent in memory of Jane Cleave to the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. First St. Fresno, CA. 93703.
Published by Fresno Bee on January 23, 2022.