Rebecca Jane Pickens

Rebecca Jane Pickens, 75, as her dear friend William recently said, “Jane loved flamboyant things.” We who lived closest to her completely agree. Even so, she managed to pass quietly and peacefully in her home in Pickens, Arkansas, on the evening of January 9, 2022, surrounded by family, Estelle, her beloved caregiver who quickly became her friend, and her cherished long time canine companion, Sophie. It wasn’t flamboyant, per se, but it was exactly as she wanted it.

Called Momma Jane by most, her nurturing spirit spread far beyond her own three children to their circles of friends, and to the children served by the various organizations she volunteered for in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she lived for over thirty years. Through these volunteer efforts, she became a cherished member of a close-knit community of volunteers who call themselves the Silver Swans, who tell us that humor was front and center in her fund-raising efforts. One Thanksgiving, for a $25 donation, she offered the presentation, “25 Ideas to Brighten your Holidays using Duct Tape” in which she hilariously demonstrated how to tape the stuffing into a turkey and designed “silver” candlesticks using toilet paper rolls. They shared her generosity as well, telling how Jane once cared for a basset hound for over a year for a handicapped man who didn’t want the dog in a shelter. When the dog died she buried its ashes in one of her own silver urns in her backyard. Jane dearly loved the Swans, and being a part of this group brought her much joy and supportive companionship.

Jane grew up on her family’s farm in Pickens, in the Arkansas Delta. She was a quick study for gracious, if not opulent, Southern hospitality. When entertaining in her home, she secured her place at the center of attention, boisterously playing and “singing” too loudly behind her beloved baby grand piano, no doubt adorned with a lavish floral arrangement, while friends feasted on her world famous homemade yeast rolls. If only someone had learned her secret recipe. Her daughter Catherine is pretty sure it was the grand mess she made (and never cleaned up) while cooking them that made them so good.

When Jane was just 22, returning from a trip to Japan with some family, she boldly declared, “I am not getting back on that plane,” at their layover in Hawaii. She meant it and stayed in Hawaii for 6 years. There she met the man she would marry (and later divorce). Before they had children they traveled the world for a year, sparing no expense. Her colorful stories of these adventures could fill a room with laughter, suspense, and awe. Mostly she talked about the people she met along the way, which was most interesting to her.

She attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and later returned to school to study religion when she moved her children to North Carolina. Feisty, animated, and well-informed, she loved to debate both religion and politics for hours. There was rarely a dull moment with Jane’s breadth of knowledge and spirited conversation in the room.

Jane is preceded in death by her oldest daughter, Madelyn Lambi; her parents, Madelyn Smith Pickens and R.A. Pickens; her childhood confidant, Momma Jonnie Williams; her nephew, Jay Pickens; her best friend. Dan, and many others. We know she is joining them at the card table with gin and tonics, perfectly spiced pecans, a Carolina football game playing in the background, and lots of laughs.

Jane is survived by her daughter, Catherine Lambi of Raleigh, North Carolina; her son, Daniel Lambi of Astoria, New York; her brother, Andrew Pickens of Pickens, Arkansas; her sister, Madelyn Ashman of Little Rock, Arkansas; her niece, Kendall Jacobs and nephew Drew Pickens, both of Little Rock, Arkansas; her nephew, Luke Pickens of Phoenix, Arizona; niece and friend, Karen Pickens of Pickens, Arkansas; five great nieces and nephews, and two great-great nephews.

In lieu of flowers, please commit random acts of kindness and generosity as flamboyantly as you can. If you wish, please donate to the First United Methodist Church in Dumas, Arkansas. Her mother built this church, and it meant a lot to her.

Jane is finally at rest, released from colon cancer, and we hold her close – our mother, sister, aunt, and friend. Please hold her close as we do, in your mind and your spirit.

A graveside service will be held Friday, January 14, at 2 p.m. at Walnut Lake Cemetery in Pickens, Arkansas.