Jane Elyse Duncan
Jane died in July of last year of acute respiratory failure. She was briefly hospitalized in Merced where she had been living, and then Fresno where she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer.
Jane was the third of four children born to Rosemary Hobson Duncan of Ventura and George Perry Duncan of Santa Paula. Both her parents were proud descendants of California pioneers that had crossed the Plains in wagon trains and settled in the southern part of Santa Barbara County before it became Ventura County. Jane was glad to tell you that her great-great-grandfather William Dewey Hobson was known as “The Father of Ventura County.”
Just two years after her birth, Jane’s family moved to Europe, where Perry worked as a civilian accountant for the United States Air Force, beginning a long career of government work and civil service in various locations. Jane’s earliest education was in England where the Duncans lived for four years, and then Germany, where they lived for two years. Rosemary believed in experiential education and gamely packed all four kids, along with a helpful grandmother and a nanny, into a Volkswagen microbus and drove them throughout Italy one summer.
When the Duncans returned to California they lived briefly in Ojai before moving to Santa Barbara in 1964. They lived on Todos Santos Lane in Mission Canyon, and Jane and her younger brother Ronald attended Jefferson Elementary School. Jane and Ron spent much of their youth together and enjoyed a close bond. Both began horseback riding and swimming while in Ojai and Jane became a skilled rider and swimmer. Jane regularly competed in local competitions at Earl Warren Showgrounds and took part in Santa Barbara Youth Theater productions with brother Ron.
After their parents divorced, both younger siblings accompanied their father when he relocated to Washington, D.C. for civil service work. Perry remarried and Jane and Ron benefited from the support and guidance of their step-mother Roberta Grimes Duncan. Jane first attended school in suburban Maryland and then The Hawthorne School in the District. She became a lifeguard and proudly enjoyed summer employment at local pools. Upon graduation Jane returned to Santa Barbara and she worked and lived in Chinatown, before attending Pitzer College in Claremont.
Soon after she entered college Jane’s behavior began to change. Up until then she had been a well-adjusted confident vivacious young woman who had a firm grasp on reality. She dropped out of school and returned to Washington, D.C. where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, an illness that would color the rest of her life.
Jane underwent treatment in the East and then California when she returned to Santa Barbara and Ventura. Her life was characterized by long periods of semi independent living interrupted by brief periods of hospitalization. In Santa Barbara she was fortunate to enjoy the structure and support of both Phoenix House and Hillside House. Despite her illness she had a good sense of humor and a warm heart and particularly enjoyed cooking and gardening.
Jane was preceded in death by her mother, father, step-mother, and brother Cameron (Ronald). She is survived by brothers Robert Bruce Duncan and John Lansing Duncan, half-brother Ian Douglas Duncan and half-sister Malone Duncan Yoh, niece Mary Mackenzie Duncan, and nephew Owen Hopper Duncan. The family wishes to express their deep gratitude to all those who assisted Jane to live in our community.