NORFOLK, Va. — People here at 13News Now and across Hampton Roads remembered longtime journalist Jane Gardner on Sunday after she died of cancer Saturday night.
Jane, who originally was from Richmond, arrived in Hampton Roads in the 1970s to work as a reporter and documentary producer at 13News Now (WVEC) after a stint in Roanoke.
Within a couple of years for arriving at the station, she became its first female main anchor.
Jane also was the station’s first medical reporter. She was there when the country’s first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization in Norfolk. She was here to tell people about AIDS when it was first identified.
During an interview with 13News Now in 2015, Jane talked about some of her earlier years at the station and said, "We just loved this job, and we felt that we had this job to help people understand the world we live in.”
For decades, Jane brought the world to people. Some of that included traveling with Norfolk-based Operation Smile from the group’s beginning as medical professionals set up places in other countries to correct facial deformities in adults and children.
"To go to a third-world country and watch the difference that doctors and nurses and other medical professionals could make in those lives, that was life-changing for us," said Jane.
When Jane’s own life changed because of breast cancer in the 1990s, she invited people into it to help them understand what fighting the disease involved and to provide them with information that could save their lives or the lives of people they knew.
Jane beat breast cancer, but throughout the years that followed, cancer continued to appear. Jane continued to fight. She continued to be a light for those who knew her.
During that interview with 13News Now in 2015, a time when Jane was being treated for ovarian cancer, she said, "The kindness of the people of Hampton Roads is extraordinary and the people who have reached out to me as I have been going through this have been so kind. I cannot express my gratitude.”
Television colleagues had nothing but praise for Jane.
"Jane could write and produce, Jane could anchor, but, could Jane ever battle," said former WVEC reporter Joe Flanagan. "And that's what we're going to remember her for. Rest in peace dear friend."
Former WVEC anchor Sandra Parker said: "She always put others first. She touched so many lives and she made a difference and she was truly loved. And now she's truly missed."
Former WVEC anchor Kathy Barnstorff also weighed in. "She set a standard for journalistic excellence," she said. "Crisp writing, authoritative, and empathetic presentation. A true gift for great storytelling."
Kathryn Barrett followed Jane as the station's medical reporter. She said the first person she ever interviewed at the station was Gardner. Barrett added, "Recently, some 30 years later, she wasn't in town to moderate a program for Jewish Family Service and LifeNet and she recommended me. She gave me the opportunity. We're going to miss Jane Gardner's giving spirit."
Former anchor Regina Mobley said, "If you've ever met Jane, you know when she locked those beautiful eyes. Without her even saying a word, her eyes said, 'Hello, my name is Jane Gardner. How can I help you?'"
Former anchor Barbara Ciara said, "She embraced what we do as a journalist. I mean, she wanted to make sure that what we did and said in the community made a difference."
And former photographer Doug Sesny added, "People loved her. We went to close to 10 countries together... Africa, the Philippines... and everybody loved Jane. She had a heart of gold that just came out."
On behalf of the people Hampton Roads, we say: “Thank you, Jane.”