Jane is a long-standing member of OPALCO herself, having joined the Co-op with her late husband Jack in 1947. She is also a member of the Willis family, who first came to Orcas Island in 1887 and joined the Co-op as soon as they could, in 1937. Jane was born in 1913 in the family home on the Willis homestead on the east side of Orcas Island; she spent her childhood there, going to school in the one-room schoolhouse.
Heat in the Willis home was provided by a wood stove, hot water was heated via the wood cook stove in the kitchen, and a cooler—no refrigerator—kept perishables cool with air circulation. Jane remembers, “When we got the OPALCO power on at our house, it was so wonderful to have bright light.” The family ordered a Crosley radio with “three big dials” on it for entertainment and news.
Jane loved attending the OPALCO Annual Meeting on the ferry. “That was my meeting,” she recalled. “You needed to go, simply because it was my OPALCO.” She remembers that there was always a nice lunch, in addition to the business meeting and interesting speakers. It was a great way to see folks from all around the islands at a time when Eastsound was hours away by horse and buggy.
Jane remembers the last time the big diesel generator plant was fired up by Buyral Madan, in 1982. “They could generate enough power to run the Island Market,” she recalled, “and were experimenting to see if they could keep the schools open and what else they could cover in case of a big outage.”
Jane has been a dedicated volunteer for the Orcas Island Museum for years. She played a key role in the Oral History project, documenting the life stories of island elders. OPALCO is honored to recognize Jane and her family for their special role as long-time member-owners.