Jane Way always worked alongside her employees and could often be found on the stairs hammering and painting. Photo: Courtesy of the Way family

Jane Burlingame Way passed away after a short and courageous battle with ovarian cancer on April 11, 2023. Jane was born in 1946 in Zanesville, Ohio and spent her adult years on a 300-acre farm. Her hardworking work ethic, honesty and down-to-earth personality were ingrained in her early days on that farm in Central America.

Long before HGTV made renovation trendy, Jane was following woman-owned and operated home renovations. “Jean was an integral member of Capitol Hill and a friend,” says Hill resident Sheridan Harvey. “She spent 40 years renovating, repairing and improving the homes of many, many people on the Hill.

From Ohio to Capitol Hill
Gene attended Kent State University in Ohio and earned a degree in Home Economics. Her husband, Chris Way, says that from the first time he noticed Jane during their college days, it was her kind and gentle personality that attracted him to her. Once they met, they were never apart and soon got married.

Jane supported Chris during his PhD by teaching Home Economics. After receiving his degree, they moved to Washington, D.C., to work in government. Jan studied the Urban Homesteading program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Renewal. By selling abandoned homes at a very low price, the program encouraged citizens to occupy and rebuild them.

Jane and Chris purchased 1107 Maryland Avenue as their first home on Capitol Hill. “We lived there for eight years,” Chris says. “We destroyed the entire house and lived without running water at first, and there were a bunch of stray dogs living in the basement.” It was these renovation efforts that sparked something in Jan, and she was helping others fix up their historic properties.

One woman show
Jane was passionate about her work and was usually out of the house by 7 a.m. and did not return home until 7 p.m. She worked six days a week, and on the seventh day, she would walk up the hill attending real estate open houses with her daughter to see what other homes looked like. “My mother was not the typical mother; “She didn’t really like to cook or clean, but she was selfless in always helping my brother and I whenever we needed her help,” Pam says.

Pam is a real estate agent and has been a principal at Donovan & Wye for over 12 years in partnership with Compass Real Estate. She attributes her success to Jan’s enthusiasm for homes. Jonathan Way says his mother included him in her projects at an early age, teaching him how to use a drill and saw. He is very appreciative of all the construction skills that his mother and father share. He now runs his own leather goods store on Bladensburg Road, Nebraska. He sells his belts, wallets, guitar straps and other leather goods worldwide online.

Jane was often seen driving around Capitol Hill in her old wood-paneled station wagon. I loved that it could hold a 4′ x 8′ sheet of drywall. Photo: Rendy O’Brien

Both children say Jane was always excited about starting a new construction project, and her work gave her great satisfaction. I loved the problem-solving issues offered by the old Capitol Hill houses. Jonathan says she was always calm, no matter what she discovered along the way. She always said you never know what you might find when you open the wall.

Jane was always on the ladder, working alongside her crew. Her skills ranged from construction manager to hands-on worker to interior designer. But she felt angry when she was identified only as an interior designer. When asked at the end of her life if she would have liked to travel or do other things in the time she had left, Jane told her family that what she really wanted was to do another project.

More than 50 homes have been converted
Chris says between 40 and 50 homes on Capitol Hill would have used Jane’s services, along with other projects like modernizing John Weintraub’s office in the old Frager store and computer labs at some of our local schools. Maureen Shea, one of her longtime clients, says there’s no corner of her home that Jane hasn’t touched, and in the best way. Gene never advertised, and never had a business card. People loved working with her, and she got her clients through word of mouth. Maureen says she met Jane through a neighbor who used her.

Margaret Brown also found Jane via Grapevine Hill. “I was a young homeowner when I bought my house in 1971,” says Margaret, a retired Library of Congress employee. “For over 50 years, Jean has helped me. She was very careful in her work, and very honest and direct. One of the last projects Jean did for Margaret was to help her rearrange several rooms, thinking about how to make the most of the space.” Not only did she have the skills to do the job, she had an architectural eye, and was very curious about the history of the homes she worked on.”

Jane was very cost conscious for her clients. Chris says she always worried she was charging too much. She didn’t provide estimates for her work, but Maureen says, “I didn’t worry because I knew she would be honest and fair about the final bill.”

Gene was one of the best people on Capitol Hill, and truly an unsung hero. Chris summed up her life and work best: “She was kind and loved connecting with people, and all of her work always came from her heart.”

    (tags for translation) In memory of: Jan 

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