BRADENTON -- She was a mother of three sons, but she also had a profound effect on the lives of thousands of young girls from Manatee County for more than four decades.
Jane Barton Pratt, co-founder of the Manatee County Girls Club, now known as Just for Girls, died early Saturday at the age of 88. She was being remembered Sunday for her vision, compassion and leadership.
Mrs. Pratt served as the organization's second president from 1970 to 1971, and continued to serve on the Manatee County Girls Club Foundation board until her death.
In the 1970s, she was national president of the Girls Club of America and went to the White House twice to discuss women's issues with President Jimmy Carter.
For her contributions, Mrs. Pratt received the club's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Just for Girls alternative school is named for her.
"She didn't go for the fanfare. She went for the work," said her eldest son, Mason Pratt, in a phone interview from Maine.
His younger brothers, Wyatt and Keith Pratt, echoed the view that their mother made a big difference in the community without seeking the limelight.
While her sons remembered her as a wonderful mother, who wisely guided and nurtured them, she also had a sense of fun, enjoyed playing boogie-woogie piano, and could enthrall an audience or class with her story-telling, or crack them up with a joke.
Becky Canesse, CEO of Just for Girls, called Mrs. Pratt a mentor and dear friend to whom she looked for advice and encouragement for a quarter-century.
"She was part of the search committee when I was hired and she has mentored me from day one," Canesse said. "She was really very wise, and had a real passion for serving this community."
That passion extended beyond Just for Girls.
"She had a tremendous impact on shaping the community for the better," Canesse said.
As a professional registered parliamentarian, Mrs. Pratt helped governmental officials, local community organizations, churches, and homeowner's associations learn to smoothly conduct meetings and develop effective bylaws and procedures.
She taught parliamentary procedure as an adjunct professor at the former Manatee Community College, which has been renamed State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.
Starting first with a group of 25 girls, Just for Girls grew to serve thousands of girls over the years with three centers, and two schools, one in Bradenton and the other in Palmetto,
"Jane is a good reason for our smart growth," Canesse said. "Losing her is a real loss to the community. I will personally miss her friendship. She leaves a tremendous legacy and it will endure."
Born Feb. 10, 1924, in Melrose, Mass., Jane lived in Ardmore, Pa., until she was 12. After the death of her father, the family moved to New London, N.H. She graduated from New London High School in 1941 and the University of New Hampshire in 1945. She taught high school business classes in White River Junction, Vt., from 1945 to 1949 and worked as a secretary at the accounting firm of Arthur Anderson & Co. in New York City from 1949 to 1950.
After a bout with pneumonia, on doctor's orders she moved to Florida in 1951 and worked as a secretary at Elliot's Tomato House in Palmetto.
She met and fell in love with Bradenton resident and accountant Harry Pratt. They were married on Aug. 8, 1952.
Long-time friend Janet Grimes knew Jane before she moved to Florida, and loaned her the wedding gown for the nuptials.
"Jane was very smart, extremely bright and efficient," Grimes said.
Mrs. Pratt was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Bradenton Unit of Parliamentarians, Bradenton Country Club, Entre Nous of Bradenton, Manatee River Garden Club, Service Club and South Florida Museum Women's Group. She enjoyed bridge, tennis and genealogy.
In addition to her three sons, Mrs. Pratt is survived by her three grandchildren, Drew Wyatt Pratt, Laura Vivian Pratt and Chase Madison Pratt, and a sister, Mary Luette Barton.
In lieu of flowers, donation are requested to the Jane B. Pratt Scholarship Fund, c/o Just for Girls and the Manatee County Girls Club Foundation Inc., 1011 21st St. E., Bradenton, FL 34208.
A memorial service and celebration of life is planned 11 a.m. Dec. 15 at the Jane B. Pratt Alternative School Just for Girls, 1500 10th St. W., Palmetto.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1