By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Jane Pappas Ray was only 49 when she died six years ago, but she had made a big impact on her community.
A second-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, Jane had a passion for teaching young children, which is why her husband decided to set up a fund to continue giving in her name.
Steve Ray of North Mankato said, in lieu of flowers, numerous donations were made to the fund. And now that the fund has matured, Steve has made a $12,800 donation to Mankato Area Public Schools’ Ready! For Kindergarten program.
Steve will be recognized Jan. 23 at the Community Education and Recreation Advisory Board meeting for the donation, although he insists this isn’t about him.
“People in town and people who knew her gave to this fund,” Steve said. “It’s coming from everybody else.”
Steve said Jane — who had lupus and a bone-marrow disorder — worked with Linda Kilander, who was her principal at Jefferson Elementary School and is now the Ready! For Kindergarten coordinator. The Rays knew Kilander for many years and were friends, which is part of what gave him the idea to make the donation to that program. He also had a family member whose son went through Ready! and enjoyed it.
Previously, Steve directed some of the donated money to Jefferson, which he said went into a fund for supplies for teachers.
“Teachers spend a lot of extra money of their own,” Steve said. “So they had a little fund to use over the past few years since she’s been gone.”
Jane earned a master’s degree from Minnesota State University and the Rays were married in 1994. She was a teacher in the Mankato school district for more than 30 years.
She volunteered to be part of many district organizations, such as the diversity committee, language arts committee and Educare Foundation. At Jefferson she was the coordinator of the science fair, and every holiday season she gathered gifts, clothing and food for students in need.
Kilander said in an email that Jane was a “lifetime supporter” of early childhood education.
“This is the second large donation that Steve has made in (Jane’s) name to benefit young children in our district,” said Kilander in an email. “... It is his wish to continue to draw attention to those issues the Jane felt were important.”