Features

Jane Hughes : A life of service, success… and strength

story by Katie VandenHouten      photos by Tonya Perry
Jane Hughes has had an interesting life. She has made a name for herself in Effingham County as a successful mortgage broker, business owner and active community member. And even though she is well-known and respected in the community, her life story is far more compelling than most people realize.
Jane’s father worked for Pan American Airways, which meant she traveled a lot in her early years. She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and later moved to Panama when she was just six years old. She finally moved to the United States after graduating high school and has lived in the Southeast ever since.
“I received my education at the Panama Canal schools run by the United States Department of Defense,” explains Jane. She was lucky enough to travel throughout her childhood, which was somewhat of a luxury for children in the sixties and seventies. She was also introduced into the Panamanian Debutante Society, which was a rare opportunity for an American resident at that time.
She still looks back fondly on those travels and says growing up in Panama gave her a different perspective. “Those travels are deeply cherished,” she says. “Growing up in a foreign country broadened my outlook on the world.”
Jane moved to the United States to attend college, settling in North Carolina. One of the biggest differences she noticed when she moved to North Carolina was that there were four distinct seasons. Growing up in the tropical Panamanian climate, she was used to warm temperatures year-round. She was a freshman at Montreat-Anderson College when she saw snow for the first time.
She later moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, where she was co-owner of a lumber company. After that, she moved to Georgia in 1988, and worked for Quick Rx as a bookkeeper for seven years.  Jane started International Mortgage Co. Inc. in 1990, and it is now the oldest mortgage company in Effingham County.
“The housing industry has always fascinated me,” says Jane. She considers her proudest accomplishment in business “providing the American Dream” to citizens of Effingham County and the surrounding area. Not only does she have a knack for numbers, but she prides herself on putting customers first, which is one of the reasons her business has lasted almost thirty years.
In a world where most communication happens via cellphone, Jane maintains contact and spends time with clients in person whenever possible. “I try to spend quality time in coaching and counseling prospective buyers, and I have a lot of repeat business,” she explains.
Jane’s business savvy was tested with the mortgage crisis in 2006, but then again, she has never been one to crumble under adversity. When business got slow, she got moving. She obtained her mediation registration and became a mediator for Effingham County Magistrate Court.  And, she didn’t stop there. She also got a job as a greeter at Strickland’s Funeral Home. These additional jobs provided her with a way to serve and meet people in the community.
She has always had a heart for service, and she is very active in her community. She served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce for six years, and she was on the board for the Treutlen House for four years as well. She was also a Rotary member, where she had an impressive perfect attendance record for ten years. While in Rotary, Jane received  the Paul Harris Fellow Award, which is the highest award given in Rotary. The award is given to those who have made an outstanding contribution to their community, and Hughes has certainly accomplished that task.
In addition to serving on various boards, she loves supporting fundraisers for a good cause as well as local charities. “I’m a supporter of any charity that might come forth,” she says. Mission on the Move with the Springfield United Methodist Church is one of her favorite causes, and she loves participating in golf tournament fundraisers. Effingham Empty Stocking Fund is also one near and dear to her heart.  She adds, Those people will get a check from me every year at Christmas.”
Effingham has opened its arms to her since she moved here, and Jane loves giving back whenever she can. “I was an outsider when I moved here,” she recalls. “But generations of families that I have met- they’ve welcomed me.”
She encourages new residents of Effingham to join a church and a civic organization of their choice. “Engaging in these memberships helps to meet people and allows one to serve the community,” she says.
Given her heart for service and positive attitude, most people would never guess that she has lived through some of the toughest times imaginable. One of the worst, no doubt, was losing her 17 year old daughter in a car accident.
Unfortunately, tough times hit again last year as well. “I was diagnosed in June of 2017 with stage four colon cancer,” says Jane, “It’s been a real challenge to say the least.”
But even in the hardest of times, she chooses to look at the bright side of things. She could easily complain about the inconvenience of living with the side effects of her chemotherapy. Instead, she is praising the nurses and staff at the Cancer Care Center at Effingham Health System.
Jane has become an advocate for the local cancer center, and she sings its praises for the much-needed service they’re providing for the community. “They have a top-quality nursing staff. It’s very well organized, and they have very good doctors here,” she says. “Having the facility here makes it so much easier for local people to go, and that was half my battle.”
And her battle isn’t over. She is currently undergoing her second round of chemotherapy. She has been battling cancer for over a year, yet she continues to work as much as she can. She also enjoys time with her friends and family and counts her blessings every day.
“I’ve truly been blessed by the Effingham County community with prayers and support through cards, meals and visits,” she says. “My church, Wingard Memorial Lutheran Church, has been a blessing to me in so many ways,” she adds. “The members of Wingard have been so supportive during my illness in the past fifteen months.”
Her biggest cheerleader is her husband of thirty years, Joseph David Hughes. “He has been my greatest support in all my endeavors,” she says. Without a doubt, the support he has given, along with her two sons, William and Wesley Ballard, Wesley’s wife Jennifer, granddaughter Caroline Moore, great grandson Daxton Moore, family, friends, and community members has made a huge difference. She knows she is not alone in this fight.
And she wants others to know that they are not alone either. “As I continue my journey through chemo, I certainly encourage anyone to follow your doctor’s instructions, stay positive, and you might just beat the odds.”
Jane hopes to become more involved in promoting Effingham’s Cancer Care Center in the future. And though she continues to fight bravely, her cancer diagnosis does not define her. Far from it. Her success and service in the community are much more important to her. “I would like to be remembered as a person of honor, integrity and strength,” she says.
Jane Hughes most definitely has those qualities and many more. Her life has been one of success, service and strength. She is more than just a business woman and cancer survivor; she is a lesson in perseverance, positivity and grace.
More than anything else, she is a hard worker and a fighter. She has never been one to give up when obstacles come her way, and she’s not about to start now. She’s the lady who is not afraid to tell cancer, or anyone or anything else in the way of her goals…. ”Not today. I have work to do.”
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