Jane Zonka

Date of Birth

September 30, 1923

Date of Death

December 11, 2020

Living to the ripe old age of 97, Jane was a wonderful woman who touched many lives, always giving of herself to others. She was born Marjorie Jane Tuck in Springfield, Missouri. At the tender age of 14, she left home to attend Stephens College and four years later graduated from Washington University with a degree in mathematics.

Humble as she was, many of Jane’s friends did not know she had a Master’s degree and taught biochemistry to first year medical students at Northwestern University for twenty-five years. Jane became a pioneer in animal research when the Medical School lent her to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo where she was the first person to establish the normal blood levels for wild animals in captivity. During these years she also began her devotion to volunteer work, serving on the board of directors of the Chicago Symphony and Brookfield Zoo.

In 1950 she married Lou Zonka, a former jazz pianist who had become a quadriplegic after a swimming accident. When they moved to Chicago Lou established a number of music stores. In the 70’s Lou and Jane took up summer residence and eventually moved to Santa Barbara, remaining inseparable throughout Lou’s lifetime. She was his rock.

With new roots in Santa Barbara, Jane became active in The American Cancer Society and was twice named Volunteer of the Year. She was also a disaster volunteer for the American Red Cross, a founding member of Cottage Hospital Hospitality House, and a board member of the Susan Love, MD Breast Cancer Foundation, helping to organize the Barbara Ireland Walk for the Cure for more than ten years.

After her husband died in 1993, Jane became a staff member of All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito. Typically Jane, she was a jill-of-all-trades, and helped where she was needed, principally with the parish’s senior program.

Always productive, in her late 80’s and early 90’s Jane fulfilled one of her passions, learning about antiques, as she worked with her friend Bea Hyp, at the Summerhill Antique store.

Jane is survived by her sister, Patricia Giberson, of Springfield, Missouri, and her adopted family, Dr. Robert Wright, his wife Debbie, their daughters Wendy, Kelly and Kim and their son, her beloved godson, John Wright and his wife Marita, her goddaughter Shelley Sutton, and her best friend of 30 years, Michelle Woodhouse, as well as a host of friends in Chicago and Santa Barbara.

A celebration of Jane’s life will be held at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to The Ridley Tree Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.


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