TWS mourns loss of long-tenured employee Jane Jorgensen

By David Frey

Jane Jorgensen was a welcoming face at TWS Annual Conferences.

The Wildlife Society is mourning the death of longtime staffer Jane Jorgensen. A 30-year employee, Jorgensen was TWS’s finance and office manager, and her long tenure and warm personality made her an irreplaceable pillar of the organization.

“Jane was the lifeblood, a stabilizing force and a go-to person for three decades during very important, formative times of The Wildlife Society,” said TWS President Bruce Thompson.

Jane Jorgensen stands in front of an Alaskan mountain range following a TWS Annual Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. ©C. J. Black

“She has been absolutely critical to the success of The Wildlife Society,” said TWS Executive Director Ken Williams. “We can hardly overestimate how important she has been and I’m honored to have worked so closely with her on behalf of the Society.”

Beloved by co-workers, board members and longtime Society members, Jorgensen ensured a continuity in the organization that survived changing staff and leadership.

“Jane was an institution,” said former TWS President John Organ, who maintained a longstanding friendship with Jorgensen. “She believed so strongly in the TWS mission. She loved people who were passionate about something, and that’s why she loved The Wildlife Society so much. It wasn’t just a job for her. She knew the members cared passionately about wildlife. Whether it was the staff or the members, she loved people.”

For members she was a reassuring voice on the phone and a welcoming face at annual conferences through the years.

“The relationship with so many members became very personal,” Williams said, “because they knew they could depend on her. She not only projected confidence. She projected the sense that she cared for them, for the simple reason that she did.”

Williams credited Jorgensen with helping steer the Society through troubled financial times that once threatened to shut down the organization.

“I know the Society would not be where it is now were it not for the sound, firm, reasoned hand that she exercised during that troubled transition,” Williams said. “The Society is where it is because of Jane.”

Jane Jorgensen stands surrounded by family at a cabin. Image courtesy of the Jorgensen family.

Jorgensen died of complications from cancer on March 7. She was 64. The news shocked attendees at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, which was taking place in Spokane, Wash., at the time.

“She loved The Wildlife Society and she believed in it,” said her husband Eric Jorgensen.

Self-taught in accounting, Jorgensen joined TWS in September 1987 as membership coordinator and grew into the role of finance director. Her tenure with the Society put her at the center of many of the organization’s day-to-day functions and made her the repository of its history.

“She really loved her job and she loved the people there,” said C. J. Black, a longtime friend and former TWS co-worker. “The Wildlife Society was almost like family. We were all very close.”

“The Society meant so much to her,” said member services coordinator Lilly Matheson. “It was her baby. She made it what it is.”

Jorgensen is survived by her husband Eric, son Seann Pelkey, daughter Jennifer Bixler, five grandchildren and five brothers and sisters. Contributions may be made to the Jane Ellen Jorgensen Memorial Fund.

The family also welcomes all who knew her to leave a remembrance of her on the tribute site they set up.

David Frey is an editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at dfrey@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article. Read more of David's articles here.

You can follow him on Twitter at @davidmfrey.