mary jane hook.

sidney, ohio. | wife. daughter. sister. mother. aunt. friend. homemaker. volunteer.

This is Mary Jane.  She is my namesake, my sounding board, my mentor, my aunt, my friend and my mother. Like most women, she juggles a lot. This beautiful lady has a strength like no other. And while Mary Jane would dismiss the following statement with humility, it is her unparalleled leadership that I admire the most. Mary Jane leads a good life, and leads by example. You may not enjoy this highlight half as much as me or my seven siblings. (She is adored.) But I promise, sweet Mary Jane will inspire you. Enjoy this inaugural j-jane post!

How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?

The rule in our family was that we could not get married before the age of 25. My parents wanted me to get a job, and do that job to the best of my ability. So I did. I worked as an editorial assistant and then at the library. I winked at my future husband, that was a conscious decision. I ended up parenting four (and then eight) of my sister’s children after she died. I did my very best to emulate my sister Rita and my mother Pauline. That was a very conscious decision. They were incredible mothers. I guess you could say my life chose me.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

All eight of those children are all good people and they are all successful. Those kids have none of the fears I have always struggled with … and that is amazing and quite an accomplishment. I can’t take all the credit for their successes – but they are all fearless.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

Fear has been my greatest obstacle. I have always lacked confidence. I am still working on this one …

How do you bring courage to a challenging situation?

I just do it. For example, I am terrified of swimming. I have always been afraid of it and one day I told myself “I am going to have the courage to do this.” I learned how to swim at the age of 71.

Do you ever feel guilty? If yes, what for?

Always, and it is a terrible trait. It offers no value really. So why I do it? I do not know. But I do think guilt can be bad and good. As a kid, you should feel guilty if you steal something or talk back to your parents. As an adult, if your stuffed peppers turned out terrible for dinner – feeling guilty is a little over the top.

What is your best advice on how to live life gracefully?

If you can believe in yourself, and follow through with the things that are important to you – life can be a graceful experience. Even if you fail, be thankful that you had the courage to try it.

j. jane side notes:

The talented John Black out of Knoxville, Tennessee took both photographs on this page. The beautiful shot at the top features Mary Jane and her two fellas (Baby Brother John Paul and Uncle Ted AKA Papa Bear). Mr. Black has been the only person on earth who has been able to capture the attention of the entire Stepleton/ Hook family at the same time. (Photo below.) There were curse words used to accomplish this great feat— but it was done and done well.  This was a special day for us all, as brother John Paul officially brought Courtney into the fold. It was a beautiful celebration. Check out Mr. Black’s work here.

  • Tcjacqui
    Posted at 13:17h, 14 September

    Great idea J-Jane….thoughtful response Aunt Mary!

  • Gloria
    Posted at 01:41h, 18 September

    Raising the fearless – what a wonderful accomplishment! And Mary Jane’s advice is just lovely. Finding courage has always been a challenge for me, and I hope I can remember those words.

  • Jeff
    Posted at 01:50h, 18 September

    What a great example for the family!

  • Marsha Mangen
    Posted at 21:19h, 18 September

    Loved it!

  • Melissa
    Posted at 01:16h, 22 September

    I loved reading your story Mary. Thank you so much for sharing it! You are an amazing, brave woman. Knowing Jessica and meeting the rest of the family, albeit briefly, it’s very apparent what an amazing job you did.

  • Anne Petera
    Posted at 18:31h, 17 October

    Oh my, such an inspiration! And such a big heart. I would love to meet you one day, Mary Jane!