The iconic Jane Dunn Sibley passed Wednesday May 22 , 2019 in her Austin home, with four generations of Sibley family present, after 95 years of technicolor life. Jane was an original. She liked to say she was the founder, president and sole member of the International Buzzard Society, and she was easy to spot in any room with her signature buzzard feather chignon.
Jane was the only child of Minna “Minnie” Mahala and A. Warren Dunn. Born in Fort Stockton in the spring of 1924, Jane came from tough pioneer roots as told in her memoir, Jane’s Window: My Spirited Life in West Texas and Austin.
Jane loved her West Texas home. A known water witcher, she doused wells and swam in water ballets in the 30s and 40s; at the 50-year anniversary of the Fort Stockton Water Carnival in 1986, she and her childhood friends swam to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
In September 1941, Jane enrolled at the University of Texas, where she would later receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. In 1950, she married Dr. D.J. Sibley, Jr. in Fort Stockton, where he practiced medicine and ranched. They had three children: Jake (b. 1950), Mahala (b. 1952) and Hiram (b. 1957).
Together, Jane and D.J. founded the Fort Stockton Historical Society, leaving the city a permanent gift of the Old Fort Parade ground, and their home, which was adjacent to it. With this bequest, the city began rebuilding the pre-civil war fort and restoring the existing officer’s quarters.
In 1962, the family moved to Austin and purchased their beautiful Spanish Mediterranean home which is now a historic landmark. The inimitable Jane and her intellectual power-house husband of 54 years, Dr. D.J. Sibley Jr., were a social and charitable force of nature from then on.
Jane was known for her impeccable style, charm, and charisma, nurtured by her artistic background. She believed the arts were integral to everyday life, and she did the work to bring that vision to life for whole communities. In 1964 Jane joined Laguna Gloria – now the Contemporary Austin – as Fiesta Chairman, helping lead the organization to solvency and prosperity.
Jane joined the Board of Directors of the Austin Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in 1967. In 1970, she cast the first dissenting vote against dissolving the financially strapped organization, and in 1972 she became ASO President;
Jane is credited with bringing the Austin Symphony back from the brink of bankruptcy. She has become synonymous as its matriarch for five decades, envisioning and helping forge Symphony Square from the ground up and tirelessly urging for and helping co-create the Long Center, where ASO found its home.
Jane practiced the art of conversation, encouraging correct grammar, and valuing history and the lessons it teaches. She recognized that not all masterpieces are in museums. During her tenure on the Texas Historical Commission and for several decades after, Jane worked on the preservation of the prehistoric wall paintings along the Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers, as did her mother-in-law, Effie Potts-Sibley. These efforts culminated in the establishment of the Rock Art Foundation (now part of the Witte Museum) and Seminole Canyon State Park.
Jane is survived by her son Hiram of Alpine, along with his wife Liz and their children, Rachel and Christopher; granddaughters Shiloh and Kiowa Sibley-Cutforth, daughters of Mahala Sibley; granddaughters Sarah Sibley and Elise Sibley Chandler, daughters of Jake Sibley, Elise’s husband Kent Chandler, and her great granddaughter, Joslyn Sibley Klein, daughter of Sarah. Jane’s husband Dr. D.J. Sibley Jr, and children Jake and Mahala preceded her in death.
Jane’s friends are invited to a celebration of her life at the Long Center in Austin on Saturday June 29 from 2-5 p.m. Later this summer, there will be a service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal, the tiny historic Victorian one-room church from Pecos that Jane and DJ rescued from the wrecking ball. Jane’s ashes will be laid to rest at a family-only ceremony in the Glass Mountain Sibley family cemetery, in the shadow of “El Castillo,” Jane and DJ’s beloved second home.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made in honor of Jane to:
• The Jane Sibley Buzzard Feather Society/Austin Symphony Endowment Fund 1101 Red River St., Austin, Texas 78701
• The Witte Museum Rock Art Foundation 3801 Broadway Street, San Antonio, Texas 78209
• Alpine Montessori School 30th Anniversary Scholarship Fund 908 North 6th Street Alpine, Texas 79830