Paul Greenberg

How a woman born and reared in Toledo, Ohio, would become the perfect Southern lady, as in Iron Magnolia, I have no idea, but, as I said, she was sharp. It didn't take her any time at all to adjust to almost any social setting, including a move south of Mason-Dixon's when she married a Southern boy.

It wasn't so much the things she did that came to mind when folks thought about Jane, but how she did them - with a twinkle in her eye and, behind it, an intelligence that saw right through you, for good or ill.

Her B.S. detector must have been on automatic; it was never turned off. But she tactfully didn't say everything she thought, thank God, and for that we lesser beings will always be grateful.

This was Jane Mendel: The only text in the program handed out at her memorial service, besides the traditional prayers and the dates of her birth and death, were the simple words on the cover: May the work I've done speak for me.

It does - eloquently. Just as, lest we forget, the work we do here will speak for all of us.

At the end of the service, the crowd at the temple milled around for the longest time, as if loath to leave the memory of Jane. Then, as each of the mourners left, they were handed a small bottle of champagne in accordance with her last wishes. In her friendly but firm manner, Jane had left only two instructions for the service - "Tell the rabbi to keep the eulogy under 20 minutes, and get everyone a glass of champagne."

That was Jane - bubbly, hospitable, generous, life-enhancing. She was a champagne kind of girl long after she was no longer a girl.

They say the light we see from distant stars may come to us long after the star itself has gone. That was Jane, too. She still shines.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.