Jane Ann Steele Bigbee, age 88, of Marengo, died Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Renton, WA while visiting her daughter. Funeral Services: 10:00 a.m. Saturday, May 11, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church, Marengo, with Pastor Anni Thorn officiating. Visitation: 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 10, at First Presbyterian Church, Marengo. Burial will be at the Marengo Cemetery. Memorials may be contributed to the Marengo Public Library for Children’s Programing, First Presbyterian Church of Marengo; the Iowa County Historical Society, Marengo, and Compass Memorial Healthcare Foundation for the Hospice Room.
She is survived by her children, G. Greg (Verla) Bigbee of Pella, Ann (Charles Scott) Bigbee of Marengo, Janice (William) Bigbee-Hansen of Renton, WA, Jennifer (Ray) Storck, of Scottsdale, AZ, AFS daughter Jenny (David Weenink) Cals, of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 11 grandchildren, Heather Vander Heiden of Pella, Dustyn (Molly) Menninga of Des Moines, LaCosta (Jeremy) Van Dyk of Pella, Morgan Bigbee of Waukee, Dakota Bigbee of Pella, Catherine Scott of Ithaca, NY, Jessica (Kyle Muckler) Scott, of Windsor Heights, William (fiancé Cathaleen Stewart) Bigbee-Hansen of Bellingham, WA, Samuel Bigbee-Hansen of Pullman, WA, Rebecca Storck of Scottsdale, AZ, Ryan (Elizabeth) Storck of Chandler, AZ, AFS grandchildren Thomas Weenink of England, Louise Weenink of The Netherlands; 12 great-grandchildren, Gage, Brady, Kjersten, and Jace Vander Heiden of Pella, Zarah, Ariana, Madyson, Alexander, Josiah, and Izabella Van Dyk of Pella, Henry Menninga of Des Moines, and Ava Bigbee of Pella.
Also surviving are a brother Daniel (Sue) Steele of Westby, WI, and sister-in-law, Bernice Steele of Spirit Lake, IA, and six nieces and nephews and their families.
Jane was preceded in death by her husband, Garth, in 2014, her father Richard Steele in 1970, her mother Catherine Steele FitzSimons in 2003, her step-father, David FitzSimons in 1985; her brother Tom Steele, in 2006, sister-in-law Jane Steele, in 2006, mother-in-law, Erma Bigbee, in 1999, and father-in-law, Lon Bigbee, in 1984.
Jane Ann Steele was born October 6, 1930 in Cherokee, Iowa, the daughter of Richard and Catherine Parel Steele. She attended the Wilson High School in Cherokee, graduating with the Class of 1949. Jane received her Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Journalism, from Iowa State College in 1953, with a minor in Home Economics where she was a member and past president of Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity, serving as editor of their quarterly magazine. Jane married Garth Charles Bigbee on June 28, 1953, at Memorial Presbyterian Church, in Cherokee, Iowa. Following their marriage, Garth served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. The couple lived on bases in Malden, MO, Enid, OK, San Antonio, TX, West Palm Beach, FL, and Salina, KS. She worked as an advertising salesman for the Enid Events Newspaper in Enid, OK in 1954. Following Garth’s discharge from the Air Force, the couple returned home to Marengo.
Jane worked as a free-lance writer for Wallaces Farmer Magazine, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Des Moines Register and WMT Radio. In September of 1968 she was hired as the news editor of The Pioneer-Republican and as the Marengo Publishing Corporation expanded eventually became editor-in-chief, then managing editor, and general manager of the NEWSpapers of Iowa County weeklies, which included the Pioneer-Republican, The Williamsburg Journal Tribune, The North English Record and The Leader in western Johnson County. She and the staff received numerous awards for writing and photography from the Iowa Press Association and Iowa Press Women. In 1992 she became the editor of The Involvement Magazine, published by the Heritage Agency of Aging, Cedar Rapids, and leased by Marengo Publishing Corporation. She resumed submitting articles to the Pioneer Republican after her “retirement” in 2000, up until her death.
Jane was a former director of the Steele State Bank in Cherokee; past president and other officer positions of Chapter AU PEO; past president Marengo Junior Federated Club; a member of Pilot Rock chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution; past member of the Kirkwood Community College communications advisory board; served as North Iowa County Chapter Red Cross service to military families as a liaison for 25 years; served as a lay member of the Iowa Supreme Court judicial grievance commission; served on the Iowa State University Home Economics Alumni Association Advisory Board member where she edited the newsletter; former member and secretary of the Marengo chapter AFS club and host family 1976-1977; member of the American Legion Auxiliary; past member of the Save Our Hospital committee of the Marengo Memorial Hospital; member of the Iowa Valley Community School District Foundation board; she worked on many special projects including the Marengo History Book Committee that published two volumes for the Marengo Sesquicentennial in 2009; past 4-H leader of the Marengo Marionettes; and many other organizations and special community projects.
Jane loved reading, gardening, and Marengo and Cherokee history. She especially enjoyed celebrating holidays and family events, attending as many of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s activities as she was able to. She was intensely curious about life (and everyone else’s)!