Jane Durfee on her 100th birthday. Next to her is a framed photo of her as a young woman. (Photo credit: Sharon Durfee)

Centenarians make up less than 0.0003% of the U.S. population, according to 2020 Census Bureau data. 

Evanston resident Jane Durfee is among the elite 0.0003%; she turned 100 on Dec. 10 and celebrated the milestone with a joyous birthday party attended by close family and friends. 

Jane is cared for by her daughter, Sharon Durfee, who describes her mother as “extremely kind and meticulous.” Jane led a very active life, and was an amazing seamstress who made everything from hand, her daughter said. 

Jane learned how to sew from her own mother, who ran a sewing school on Long Island, New York. Sewing became a lifelong skill for her; Jane sewed her own clothes and supported neighbors and friends by mending their torn items.

She always dressed impeccably, and often sewed her hats and shoes with the same material so they would match, Sharon said. 

Jane was also a wonderful homemaker and stay-at-home mom to children Sharon and James Durfee, her daughter added. She cooked everything from scratch, grew her own vegetables in the garden, shopped at local farmers markets and provided her family with homemade dinners. 

Her mother also led a very active life, which is likely why she has lived so long, Sharon said. When she was younger, Jane loved riding her bike, going for walks, playing tennis, and doing yoga. 

Although originally from upstate New York, Jane lived in Pennsylvania for 50 years with her husband, Frederick Durfee. When he passed away 18 years ago, she moved to Evanston to live with her daughter.

Family and friends gathered Dec. 10 to celebrate Jane Durfee’s milestone birthday. (Photo credit: Sharon Durfee)

Sharon said her mother wanted to remain independent and didn’t want to interfere with her daughter’s family, so they remodeled their home to create a separate living space for her.

“She has her own living area with her own kitchen, dining room, fireplace, bedroom and all that, and it’s all part of our house,” Sharon said. When her mother still drove, Sharon recalled Jane taking her “little red Volkswagen” to the Levy Senior Center, where she volunteered in the gift shop. Jane also began mending and sewing quilts to sell at the gift shop.

Shortly after moving to Evanston, Jane joined St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Due to health issues, she stopped attending church nearly 10 years ago, but prior to the pandemic Communion ministers continued visiting her every Sunday to bring her home Communion.

The Rev. Terri Morrissey became close with Jane during these visits. She called her a “treasure” who always has a positive attitude and constantly expresses gratitude for her family and friends.

“It was always a delight to go and visit her,” said the Rev. Morrissey. “She would always be beautifully dressed and sitting in the living room and waiting for me or one of our home Communion ministers.” 

The Rev. Morrissey added that getting to know Jane and her family has been a blessing, one for which she is very grateful.

Sharon is a mother of four, and she said her parenting style is largely inspired by that of her mother. Her children are now grown, but when they lived at home, she always made home-cooked meals for them, shopped at local farmers markets, taught her children how to cook and sewed Halloween costumes for them, all in addition to being to an orthodontist.

In a brief interview with the RoundTable, Jane expressed appreciation for her family and friends. “Everyone is so friendly and good to me,” she said.

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...