Mary Jayne Johnson  (Fischer-Haas)


I've been struggling with how to condense 50 years of living into something short of a 500 page book.  I did bring you up to date in an email sent to Ken that's on Chit Chat--so I'll start with some background.  To briefly describe my journey that's found me at 67, I would say it's been filled with high drama.  If I listed all the highs, it would read like one of those awful Christmas letters,--if I listed my challenges and life crises, you would wonder why this person isn't in a corner somewhere with a blanket over her head--sucking her thumb!  The sum of it all is a Mary Jayne who is stronger than you might imagine, grounded with a solid faith and a crystal clear understanding of who and what truly matters.  And honestly, it's a good place to be--I am grateful for the good and can say now that the difficulties have become a gift.


When I graduated from UNH, I left the East and moved to Chicago.  My sister and her family were living there and my parents were four hours south of Chicago.  I was hired by the Xerox Corporation which was the hot growing company at the time.  The position was a first in the industry. A group of 12 female college graduates were chosen to begin a new program.  We took over account management after the sales representatives moved on to the next prospect.  We had our own geographic territory to manage--set up sales training--handled all and anything that arose so that the customer was more and more comfortable using those new strange machines.  Out of this group came the first women in sales---and Xerox is where I met my late husband.  He was in marketing so we were bounced around from Chicago, to the Quad cities of Iowa (yep--I lived there for 5 years!) to Rochester, NY (loved it there) to finally settle in Bath, Ohio.  If you are thinking, "Why does Bath Ohio sound vaguely familiar?”  It's because you heard a lot about Bath a few years ago--it was the home of Jeffrey Dahmer--in fact, not only was he from Bath--he lived on our street.  He was two years older than our oldest daughter--and his brother David sat in front of her in her classes.  Jeffrey was raised among us--Indian Guides, field trips--his Dad played in the area tennis league.  When the terrible story about him hit the news, this quiet community was besieged with national news coverage.  Every TV news van was parked on our street--closing it off, while the FBI combed the acres of the property for human remains that were shipped off to the Smithsonian for identification.  It took months before the peace of living in Ohio returned.  Ohio was a wonderful place to raise our two daughters--now grown.  Our oldest Gretchen lives in Boston and has three children: Theo, Chloe (their biological kids) and Phoebe (our gift from China).  Gretchen is a clinical psychologist focusing on children and is based at Mass General Hospital.  Liz lives near home and is in my field.  I see her weekly--and Gretchen and her children often (thanks to Air Tran, it's like getting on a bus to Logan)


By the late 70's, I was getting restless.  I knew in college that I wanted a career---never dreamed I would be in sales. I had designed a number of homes in the various cities we lived in and they always sold quickly.  Soon I was designing homes of friends when it occurred to me--why don't you get paid for this--you love doing it?  I took classes at Kent State (an alma mater for a number of you) in architecture and went to work at a design studio in Bath.  I did that for seven years when I was recommended to a company, Thayer Coggin.  I interviewed and was hired--the first woman ever hired as a manufacturer’s representative in the 30 year old furniture manufacturer.  I have been doing this for 25 years--and have loved it (as I said earlier).  Now, there are many women in this field--I have lots of good company.


I have been thinking what to tell you about myself that may interest you--or give you some insight into who I've grown to be, so I've settled on three very different aspects of my life that have given me great satisfaction.  For those of you who had to play anything athletic with me ( I was terrible at field hockey, not much better at softball), you'll be surprised  to learn that I was on the National Ski Patrol for twenty years at a ski area near Bath.  I know what you're thinking--where on earth is there a mountain in Ohio?  Well, there isn't--the hill has a vertical drop of about 600 feet and is slightly under the Ohio Turnpike (: )  But, I've learned that it's time on skis not necessarily how far or fast you go that turns you into a solid competent skier.  In other words, if you're hurt, I can get you  down to the First Aid hut smoothly and slowly (I have a great snowplow)  The reward for volunteering 10 hours a week was a seasons pass for my family--so we are all skiers--even grandchildren (Theo is a snowboarder) 


I became a Stephen Minister four years ago.  This is a program that requires you take 50 hours of training to become a care giver to someone in your church who is going through one of life's crises.  After my husband passed away, I decided that I may be able to walk beside someone experiencing a similar loss. Actually, the Stephen Minister Leaders could plug me into a number of crises!  It is a program that focuses on listening and comforting or sometimes just being there for someone in any level of pain--physical, emotional or spiritual.  Like so many things you volunteer for, I have gained far more than I have given.


The third is an adventure of sorts.  Andy Haas (my current husband) and I have been on a number of medical mission trips to Honduras.  Andy is a retired orthodontist (he's been 5 times), and I joined him as another pair of hands (I've been three times).  We have been part of a group that goes annually to an orphanage founded by Sister Maria Rosa (the Mother Teresa of Honduras).  Each day, the brigade heads out to a remote village to give medical aid, visual aid and dental aid to those who gather--some have walked miles for this help.  My role was to load the Novocain into the syringes and to sterilize the instruments.  By sterilizing, I mean rinsing the tools in Clorox--there is never any electricity--so all the dentist can do is pull teeth. As an example, each trip we’ve taken, the dentists have pulled an average of 700 teeth.  We never saw any one over the age of fifteen who had all their teeth--most have only a few by their early twenties. My life has been enormously altered having been to a third world country.  I am humbled by their struggles yet encouraged by their humanity.


I do have one regret---and that's having lost touch with so many of you who were dear friends in high school.  The biographies I've read are amazing--so many of us have chosen just the right paths or found the right niche and are living very enriched lives.  I can't wait to see you.


Mary Jayne (MJ)