Jane Bell McKune, 78

Published 5:40 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

Jane Bell McKune, 78, of Louisville, KY, died Sunday, April 14, suddenly but peacefully, after a day surrounded by her loving Ballantine cousins. She was the wife of the late Thomas Boyd McKune (“Tom”).

Born November 8, 1945, in Philadelphia, to the late John Peay Bell and Nancy Ballantine Bell, Jane grew up in Louisville near Cherokee Park. She and her four brothers, and many, many dogs, enjoyed a rollicking childhood, between their home on Spring Drive and their summer haven, Neahtawanta, in northern Michigan. Jane graduated from Northwestern University where she fell in love with literature, mythology, and art history. She then spent several cherished years in Boston, where eventually, despite failed attempts and missed connections, a dear family friend introduced her to Tom McKune. After a whirlwind romance, and when she “knew [she] would follow him to Washington if McGovern won,” she may have asked Tom to marry her. They wed under the pavilion at West Bay, on a rainy day in Neahtawanta, surrounded by friends and family. Together, they went to graduate school at the University of Michigan, where she obtained a Master’s in Social Work, and they returned to Kentucky in 1981 for Tom to work at Centre College. Jane and Tom raised their three girls in Danville, making a life filled with true friends and laughter in a quirky old house on First Street. 

Jane practiced in community mental health for more than 30 years, where she was “the most requested therapist by name” due to the care, wit, intelligence, and humor that she brought to her craft. Over the years, and well past her retirement in 2008, Jane helped hundreds of clients, friends, children, children of friends, friends of children, and strangers – gently and thoughtfully, both formally and in quieter ways, always engaging with curiosity and warmth and never with judgment. 

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In 2019, she returned to Louisville, where she once again overlooked her beloved Cherokee Park. She took great pleasure in walking her dog, Sandy Mac, through her neighborhood, and she regularly recounted to her daughters the interesting people she met along the way, the beautiful yards she admired, and how much she loved being within walking distance of family, a coffee, or a bottle of bourbon. You could often find her sitting in Willow Park with one of her grandchildren – offering an impromptu therapy session to a teen or keeping a watchful eye on a toddler.

Jane’s life was rooted in family. Tom was the love of her life, as evidenced by the rings she never removed. Since her retirement, her life centered around her girls and her seven grandchildren. Jane retreated to Florida each February, to be close to family there and, like her father, to enjoy the salt water and the sun as a balm against the dark winter days of Kentucky. She then spent summers in Michigan: a bit of planning, a lot of good fortune, and the COVID pandemic extended the time she spent there each year with her girls, her grandchildren, and an assortment of cousins and dogs. She embraced an open door, an extended table, and seventeen people under one roof, as well as a game of solitaire on a quiet deck.

In her last days, Jane traveled to northern California to celebrate the life of her first cousin, Terry Bisson. In 1968, when Jane’s younger brother Johnny died, it was her cousin Terry who wrote that one of her family’s gifts was to “love on time.” Jane held close those words and truly lived them. Everyone who knew her benefited – and is still benefiting – from her ability to do so. 

In addition to Tom and her parents, Jane was predeceased by her brother John Bell, Jr. She is survived by her girls and their families (Kate McKune and Cullen, Hayden, Clare, and Graham Lowery of Louisville; Sarah McKune and J., Matilda, James, and Henry Parrish of Gainesville, FL; and Anne McKune and her son John McKune of Louisville); her brothers and sisters-in-law (Flip and Pam Bell of Louisville, David and Lora Bell of Battletown, KY, and Victor and Kristin Bell of Roanoke, VA); her brother-in-law, John (Jill) McKune of Castle Rock, CO; and a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, and cousins, each of whom she claimed as part of her clan. 

A service to celebrate Jane’s life will be held in Louisville, KY, on Sunday, May 26, 2024.