Bradenton’s Entwistle a trailblazer in career and causes

Jan Entwistle, the founder of Women's Resource Center of Manatee, died Tuesday after an 18-month battle with cancer.
Jan Entwistle, the founder of Women's Resource Center of Manatee, died Tuesday after an 18-month battle with cancer.

In the 1970s, after her children were in college, Jan Entwistle bought herself a suit and a briefcase and marched into a Merrill Lynch office in Washington, D.C.

“They all thought she was there for an administrative job,” Bradenton’s Ashley Brown said Wednesday. “She announced that she was there to become one of the first female stockbrokers.”

Mrs. Entwistle’s “I can do anything” attitude made her a successful financial adviser for Merrill Lynch for 37 years in both Washington, D.C., and in downtown Bradenton, and also led her later to found the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee, where she helped instill the confidence she had in herself in local women going through a transition, Brown said.

Women’s Resource Center of Manatee

Entwistle started the center in her Bradenton living room in 1990. Twenty-six years later, it had grown to where more than 250 women were coming monthly to its location at 1926 Manatee Ave. W. to seek a career change, cope with a divorce or death or seek personal enrichment, said Brown, who is executive director of Women’s Resource Center of Manatee.

Mrs. Entwistle, 82, died Tuesday while holding the hand of her daughter, Vicki Elzer, a Jesse P. Miller Elementary School third-grade teacher.

She had suffered from cancer for a year-and-a-half but was able to die at home in Freedom Village. She was wide awake and communicating until her last breath, her daughter said.

“She told me she loved me and I told her I loved her,” Elzer said of her mother’s final moments. “I said to her, ‘Together forever,’ and she repeated, ‘Together forever.’ I was OK because I knew she was suffering. I have no doubt she is in a better place, absolutely no doubt.”

Celebration of Life service on Saturday

A Celebration of Life service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Palma Sola Presbyterian Church, 6510 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

Mrs. Entwistle’s family members and work colleagues say her passion and vision for Women’s Resource Center of Manatee services will live on through the life-changing work done there every day.

“Jan was the most positive person you can imagine,” Brown said Wednesday. “She was not worried about the reasons something couldn’t happen. It would get done and move forward and that is how she lived her life.”

“Jan stayed connected and passionate about the center and what we are doing,” Brown added.

Chuck Elzer, Mrs. Entwistle’s son-in-law, is a senior vice president with Merrill Lynch and actually worked alongside his mother-in-law for 20 years.

“Guys would come up to me and say, ‘Are you the guy who works with his mother-in-law,’” Elzer said Wednesday.

Elzer said not only did he work with her, he was continually amazed by things she did.

Grit, determination and a visionary

“Grit and determination,” Elzer said. “She was a visionary. She was among the first people in Bradenton to have a mobile phone, one of those big ones. She loved technology and recognized what it could do before most people. She excelled in a male dominated world. She loved Merrill Lynch because they gave her a chance when some firms did not. She rose to the top with grace and class and she did it by helping others the whole way. Anyone who wanted to learn, she was ready and willing to help them.”

Brown said that Mrs. Entwistle was adamant that a new sign the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee is getting have a state-of-art digital display so people passing by on Manatee Avenue can read about programs at the center.

Mrs. Entwistle’s husband, Chuck, a career U.S. Marine who is now 78, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease when he was 65.

Mrs. Entwistle got certified to be a support leader for Alzheimer’s caregivers and ran support groups at Women’s Resource Center, Freedom Village and her church, her daughter said.

She continued to run her programs while undergoing chemotherapy, her daughter added.

Finally, about three years ago, Mrs. Entwistle placed her husband in Our Home in Bradenton, a memory care facility.

“She went to visit him every day,” Vicki Elzer said. “Theirs was a very strong marriage. They were very devoted.”

Mrs. Entwistle served on many boards in Manatee County including Just for Girl’s Foundation Board, American Lung Association, AAUW, Blood Bank, Arts Council of Manatee County and The Library Foundation Board.

She was interested in photography and genealogy. She became a member of the Daughters of the Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Union Daughter of the Civil War.

“My mom believed if you work hard enough you can accomplish your dreams,” Vicki Elzer said. “She loved Walt Disney and Disney World for that reason. She was a remarkable woman. She always wanted to give. She cared. She was a great person to try to be like. She was my best friend.”

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond