Obituary of Jane Marin Brinkley
Jane Marin Brinkley died of a suicide in her dormitory room on the Smith College campus in Northampton, Massachusetts, February 27, 2022.
Born in Greenwich Village on a cold sixth of February, 2002, baby Jane arrived as an ambassador from a world of pure love. She could pick out the most downtrodden New Yorker on the subway, and build a warm connection through offering interest and joy. Jane's first words were 'Oh, wow!' and her thrill at every new discovery, and her appreciation of the world and the people around her, would animate every day of her rich life for twenty years. She was a regular under the blue whale at the Museum of Natural History, in the sculpture courtyard at the Met, in the Children’s Zoo in Central Park, with visits to her dad at at the Rubin Museum of Art, and helping her mom teach developmental movement classes at the Elizabeth Seton birthing center.
When she was little, Jane and her parents moved to Oregon, where her life-long communion with the natural world would grow ever deeper. She loved especially the rugged Oregon coast, whether in summer calm or winter storm. In 2005 Jane’s family welcomed her dear brother Hugh. From the moment she met him, Jane was the most gentle, playful, adoring sister imaginable. She folded Hugh into whatever world she was creating, including him and incorporating his ideas and interests in the ways she enjoyed the day. The two made endless drawings and paintings and games. They created fashions and fabulous objets d’art. They made up songs, stories, plays, embracing each holiday and special occasion with gusto (and much signage). Whether at home or exploring new places near and far, Jane and Hugh’s amiable companionship was beautiful to witness on a daily basis.
We remember and celebrate Jane's astonishing energy, and her sense of silliness and fun, whether exploring with Mom, telling stories with Dad, creating endless worlds of play with her brother, or cooking up elaborate schemes with her best friends. She found special teachers at Kids Down South Preschool, Ridgeline Montessori, Cesar Chavez Elementary, and Roosevelt Middle School. She attended South Eugene High School’s French Immersion International High School, while taking French language and literature courses through the University of Oregon. Jane earned a full International Baccalaureate diploma and a Seal of Biliteracy in French. She was a 2020 National Merit Award winner.
With her Mom, Jane danced from before she could walk, and never had a day in her life without art. From the beginning she lived deeply through literature, starting in the land of Oz, and growing to love modern and contemporary fiction and poetry in English and French. Jane was a powerful actor and singer, whose performances moved audiences deeply. The transformative power of her heart was a gift she shared as an accomplished playwright, songwriter, poet and translator, winning national accolades for her work. In 2015, as an 8th grader, Jane organized a "Music Heals" benefit for the victims of the Umpqua Community College mass shooting. Jane understood that the power of art is in bringing people together. She used her art to create meaning: her plays “Locus” (2019) and “Tiny Little Problems” (2020) focus on the aftermath of assault and trauma; both were winners of the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival, receiving full productions in Hollywood, CA. Jane wrote the lyrics for the 2020 American Theatre Wing’s National Songwriting Challenge winning song.
Jane was also an agent of societal change. She participated for many years in Planned Parenthood’s Youth Leadership Program, training to be a peer educator in consent-based sexual and reproductive education and support. (Jane was known in high school as the person kids could talk to. She had resources, a network, practical advice, and most importantly, a non-judgmental demeanor.) When she turned 18, Jane trained and served as a crisis line responder for Sexual Assault Support Services. Jane championed the unhoused, routinely bringing food from our cupboards to stock the free little pantry in our neighborhood. (Side note: If you'd like to do something to remember Jane, consider tending a little food pantry in your community.)
Like many, Jane’s first year of college was spent in familiar bedrooms, in her family home and with her grandparents in Seattle, but she handled the limitations with grace. She became a tutor for students near and far, supporting them with human connection, through virtual platforms. To walk by her room when she was tutoring was to hear Jane’s generous, focused care. She would meet each one of her students with equal measures of humor and understanding. She was fun, and made learning enjoyable and engaging for everyone, from first graders to someone in calculus.
To her friends at Smith College, and the students for whom she was a teaching assistant, Jane brought encouragement and inspiration. Many have remarked that she gave warmth and support to everyone who came into her orbit. Jane especially treasured her artistic family at the Poetry Society of New York, where she worked joyfully in the summer of 2021. She was eagerly looking forward to a second summer internship with the Society. The few weeks since her death have seen a shared, growing amazement at the breadth of her circles of relationships, and the depth of meaning that she brought into so many people's lives. A world of people are thankful for Jane. A world of people grieve her.
Jane's family buried her, with the last full moon of winter, on a wooded hillside looking out to the west, amidst her favorite poems and music, at the Eugene Masonic Cemetery. Jane is preceded in death by her grandfather, Jack Carnes, and is survived by her mother, Rachael Carnes, father Ben Brinkley, brother Hugh, grandparents Carl and Becky Brinkley, Alice Parman and John Zerzan; by her aunts Claire Noonan, Jamie Brinkley, Niki Hagen and Sarah Wilson, and her uncles Weston Brinkley and Stephen Hagen. Jane leaves cousins Ari, Lucy, Juniper, Elliott, Simon, Daisy, Juel and Pablo; and her partner, Grant Conversano.
All of us miss Jane so completely.
As a family, we wish we were able to provide comfort to the many people at home, around the country (and the world) who knew and loved Jane. Together, we grieve this beautiful person.
The Poetry Society of New York City (PSNY) honored Jane at its annual gala April 21, dedicating a summer festival fellowship in Jane's name. The Poetry Society will also add a stage to its annual Summer Poetry Festival September 10 & 11, called the Brinkley stage, with a wall of yellow flowers as a backdrop. Says PSNY director Jackie Braje: “It was Jane's mission to put together a yellow flower wall at last year's festival, which was hindered due to time constraints and limited resources. We want to make sure it comes to life this year.”
A Memorial for Jane was held at Smith College April 22 & 23.
The Eugene Concert Choir dedicated its May 8 performance of the Brahms Requiem to Jane.
Gifts in Jane's memory may be made to the Poetry Society of New York, The Blank Theatre in Los Angeles, Sexual Assault Support Services in Eugene, and to the Jane M. Brinkley Memorial Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation. This fund will enable its advisors — including young people who knew and loved Jane — to make grants to nonprofit organizations in Jane’s name, continuing her good works in perpetuity. Your gifts may be made care of the Oregon Community Foundation, or by check to the Oregon Community Foundation with ‘Jane M. Brinkley Memorial Fund’ in the memo line: 440 E Broadway, Suite 160, Eugene, OR 97401. Thank you.
We will gather on Saturday, June 25, in Oregon, for a celebration of Jane’s life. In the meantime, we encourage you to reach out to one another, to come together in mourning and fond remembrance.
Updates and information about the event will be added to this InMemori page, where the family also invites remembrances and photos.
Please ensure you have the support you and your friends and family need:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-8255 — is a national network of crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via phone call or text. Anyone can call, including the bereaved, anytime, with questions, thoughts or feelings about losing a friend or family member to suicide. In addition, the YouthLine provides support for teens and young adults, with a teen2teen program that empowers youth to connect with youth who can respond to their needs, 4-10PM Pacific. To reach the YouthLine, please call 1-877-968-8491 or to text: use 839836, with the message “teen2teen” to connect.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) sponsors Out of the Darkness walks that you can sign up for anywhere in the United States. In these walks, those affected by suicide – and those who support them – raise awareness and much-needed funds, strongly sending the message that suicide is preventable, and that no one is alone. You could sign up to walk.
A loss such as this defies understanding. Together, we can come together to begin to heal. Please have conversations, across the generations. Talk to parents, children, colleagues, friends. Let the light in.
Rachael Carnes and Ben Brinkley
Jane’s mom and dad.