Jane Hyatt lived a life of adventure.
She rode horses and ran a cherry orchard. She toured the world and felt strongly about democracy.
“She liked the outdoors in Montana, (and) she very much liked to go see the animals in the parks in South Africa,” said her husband, Harry Hyatt.
In Montana, she rode horses as a child in the mountains outside Helena. Later in life, she powered the boat on Flathead Lake for her family, and she liked to sit in the middle of the lake and view the scenery. She liked the motoring, too.
“She tended to be the boat driver when my son and his buddies were skiing, and sometimes when I was skiing,” Hyatt said. “It just depended on what we were doing. She liked to drive.”
When the couple moved back to Montana, they decided to buy a cherry orchard in the Flathead. Harry said Jane ran the orchard, hiring picking crews and overseeing the replanting needed when a bad winter wiped out the entire crop in 1989.
“It’s a commercial orchard, and it was her business,” Hyatt said.
She designed their beautiful home. When a know-it-all architect tried to force his tastes onto Jane, and when he wouldn’t listen, Jane dealt swiftly with his machismo, said her sister Judy Stevens.
“He wouldn’t listen her. He knew better,” Stevens said.
So Jane fired the man without qualms, Stevens said. She didn’t have a high tolerance for ineptitude among adults or for that kind of attitude. And she herself had a “stunning” amount of energy.
“She had that extra four or five hours of ‘up’ that most of us don’t have,” Stevens said.
The couple left Montana in 1959, and Hyatt’s job as a chemical engineer took them to other parts of the country and all around the world, through Europe and Asia and Africa.
“The Middle East is the only place she didn’t get to go,” Hyatt said.
In South Africa, Jane witnessed people lining up to vote in the first election in which black people were free to cast ballots, Stevens said. Before he was elected president, she had met Nelson Mandela, too.
“She was so interested in politics and setting people free,” Stevens said.
She lived in Germany for a time and would have loved to have seen first-hand the Berlin wall come down. Back in South Africa, she and Hyatt went on safaris and saw lions as close as five feet away, with Jane documenting their excursions.
“She was taking pictures. She loved to take pictures of animals, (and) people, too,” Hyatt said. “Photography was one of her favorite things.”
In South Africa, she had a long corridor filled with pictures of sites and animals. She loved the country, and saw many similarities between it and the western United States, Hyatt said. Both countries have pioneers who sought land and had to defend themselves on their quests.
As much as she loved the country, Stevens said Jane felt heartbreak in South Africa, too. Her housekeeper and friend, Naomi, landed in the hospital for a hysterectomy, Stevens said. A doctor made an incorrect cut, and Jane’s confidante bled to death.
“It’s sort of breathtaking to have found a jewel, and then (there) was death,” Stevens said.
Part of her role as the wife of an executive was to entertain, and Stevens said her sister was the consummate host. She could entertain 60 family members as easily as she could a group of dignitaries.
“We enjoyed the people. She enjoyed the people most everywhere we went,” Hyatt said.
She died July 3, 2009, at her home on Flathead Lake after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2004.