Where are they now? Jane Neely 

Where are they now? Jane Neely 

Where are they now Jane Neely on a horse from Camp Ondessonk

By Whitney Strang

During the early years, Camp Ondessonk only operated during the summer months so Camp’s herd needed to find a home during the school months. Animal lover and Lodge member, Jane (Loehr) Neely and her sister, Mary, volunteered for this task and were entrusted with Prince Mare and Mariah during the winter of 1964. The horses were boarded at Scott Air Force Base, not far from the family’s home in Belleville, Ill., and fed with hay purchased for fifty cents a bale.  

Jane took on this commitment after two summers at Camp Ondessonk. First, in the CIT program in 1963 and she returned in 1964 as a Counselor. Not surprisingly, some of her favorite memories involved the horses she would help care for during the winter months. She explained, “A fun counselor memory was riding the trails with other counselors on weekends.”  

Where are they now? Jane Neely with her dogs

Jane was inducted into the Lodge of Tekakwitha in 1964 and still remembers details from the ceremony. Though relocating to Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, and Oklahoma have kept Jane from visiting Camp, she has stayed in contact with friends and fellow Lodge members she met during her time on staff. 

Growing up, Jane lived with her family in the apartment above the grocery store run by her father, Lawrence “Fat” Loehr located on South Illinois Street in the St. Peter Parish. The store was a favorite of the kids who visited on their way home from nearby Cathedral High School. 

Jane graduated from Academy of Notre Dame in the spring of 1965 and started working full time in St. Louis before beginning her career in Civil Service. Her winter caring for Prince Mare and Mariah helped prepare her for a lifetime of caring for horses.  

“It was fortunate that I owned a few horses and raised some foals for many years after Camp,” Jane shared. “Antlers Joan, a model quarter mare, was the first one purchased after graduating high school, but more followed. My sister and I had Crows Nest Appaloosas in the late 1970s and I loved competing in western pleasure and western pleasure for English style, trail with my Appaloosa, Wheeler Dealer.”  She also got the “horse show bug” and showed for many years in Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma where she now calls home. 

After retiring, Jane continued her work with animals. “I now show dogs in performance sports.” She explained, “Agility, flyball, obedience, Rally, barn hunt, nose work, Fast Cat and even Farm Dog Certification.” She attended Texas Dog Scout of America Camp in Texas for four years and several of her dogs became certified therapy dogs to visit nursing homes and participate in Children Reading to Dogs at the library. Jane has also volunteered with her church’s mobile meals program, two food pantries, and she joined a local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).   

Click here to learn more about The Loyal Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha.


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