Jane McClary Oakley, 63
Responsible for Rocky Hill’s Speed Bumps
1956 — April 4, 2019
Jane McClary Oakley, 63, died at home with her family on April 4 following a courageous battle with metastatic breast cancer.
Her life and career were characterized by creativity, performing, writing, directing, and supporting others — Oprah Winfrey, Ray Charles, and Sergeant Slaughter — in their professional and personal endeavors.
At home in Rocky Hill, and later in Bethesda, Maryland, Jane threw herself into community activities. She was active in the Rocky Hill Community Group, serving for many years as president along with co-president Anna Bernanke. Jane is credited with introducing traffic calming measures to Rocky Hill roadways.
Locals refer to her speed breakers as “Jane’s bumps.” She was especially visible on Montgomery Avenue waving at cars to slow down in order to improve neighborhood safety conditions.
Jane wrote a book about her Rocky Hill neighbor (two doors down) Brenda Fallon titled My Neighbor’s Wife, chronicling the tragic death (and aftermath) of William Fallon, who was killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing.
Heavily engaged in every church to which she ever belonged, Jane was especially active in the children’s ministry, was an usher, and served on countless committees at Princeton United Methodist Church and Westmoreland Congregational United Church.
The youngest of Edward and Elizabth McClary’s five children, Jane grew up in Jackson, Missouri, where her creative talents and exuberant personality were appreciated throughout the town.
As a high school student, she starred in plays, was first flute in the band, and a cheerleader. A graduate of Northwestern University (1978 School of Speech), she was one of the first female members of the marching band, and an active member of the satiric MEOW productions.
Her professional career as a television producer included work with many well-known TV personalities. Her internship with The Morning Exchange in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was known as “Baby Jane,” paved the way for her first job as associate producer for People Are Talking, at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland. The show’s hosts were a then-unknown Oprah Winfrey and Richard Scher.
She was executive producer of The Greater Baltimore Baffle, a quiz show where her favorite guest was Orioles’ pitcher Jim Palmer.
She became an executive producer of Boston’s WBZ-TV “4Today” morning news, executive producer for the July 4 Esplanade concert “Ray on the Charles” starring Ray Charles, “Wrestling for a Cure” with Sergeant Slaughter, and the Michael Jackson “Victory Tour” special. She considered her greatest production success an “Evening with the Boston Pops” live on WCVB-TV Channel 5, which was repeatedly interrupted by the bombing of Kuwait in 1983. WBZ is also where she met and began her love affair with Glenn Oakley, her husband of nearly 35 years.
She went on to be executive producer for the first “Larry King Show” on nationally syndicated television, and is remembered as the person to first put him in suspenders.
In New York City, she did a variety of talk shows, including as executive producer of the “Jane Wallace Show,” “Late Night with Lauren Hutton,” “The Dick Cavett Show,” “The Charles Grodin Show.”
After the birth of her two sons, she applied her creative talents to writing and publish short stories. She was an active member of the Bethesda Writers Group. She is the creator/playwright of a yet-to-be published musical, “Don’t Go Away.” She also wrote and produced fund raising videos, resulting in charitable contributions of million dollars.
Jane was a lifelong Girl Scout, working as a camp counselor and lifeguard for several years in her youth. Also active in her sons’ Boy Scout troops, her son Christian said she was the inspiration for his achievement of an Eagle Scout award. She was a P.E.O. (an international sisterhood and educational philanthropic organization) for more than 40 years.
Despite her social and community involvement, Jane loved nothing more than retreating to Maine with her family to walk on the mud flats, collect sand dollars, and sail, water ski, and scan the sky for eagles. She also loved travel and (mostly) beating her sister at Scrabble.
She is survived by her husband Glenn Oakley and son, Carter and Christian, all of New York City; two sisters and their spouses: Lynn Hawkins (Bill); Laura Avakian (Stephen); and her brother Ed McClary. Her brother Robb McClary preceded her in death. She was the beloved aunt of 14 nieces and nephews.
A private celebration of Jane’s life will be held in Princeton in June. ■