Friends in Brooklyn and beyond have expressed an outpouring of support in the past week as they mourn Jane Walentas, who died peacefully on Sunday, July 5 after a battle with cancer.
Jane Walentas and husband, David, had together transformed an industrial waterfront area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges into a thriving neighborhood, christened with the acronym DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) for its location.
Jane Walentas, an artist, designer and visionary, rescued a carousel which the Philadelphia Toboggan Company had built in 1922. Its components were about to be auctioned off piecemeal. She and David purchased the entire carousel for $385,000.
The carousel’s original location was the Idora Amusement Park in Youngstown, Ohio. Its 48 wooden horses are the handiwork of artists John Zoller and Frank Caretta. This carousel, which also had chariots and a Wurlitzer organ, became the first of its kind to earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
After a long-term restoration project, the merry-go-around was opened in Brooklyn Bridge Park and named “Jane’s Carousel.”
Jane Walentas’ artistic vision and compassion were the focus of many tributes and remembrances on her New York Times obituary page over the past 10 days.
“The Board and staff of St. Ann’s Warehouse mourn the passing of our dear friend Jane Walentas,” wrote President/Artistic Director Susan Feldman and Chair Joseph S. Steinberg of St. Ann’s Warehouse. “A beautiful soul with a savvy mixture of pragmatism and creativity, Jane’s kindness, warmth and singular style were inspirational. Jane epitomized the spirit of DUMBO, which she, her husband, David, and son Jed, pioneered into a vibrant waterfront neighborhood and cultural destination. Jane’s Carousel, which she meticulously restored over 20 years, testifies to Jane’s vision for making public spaces festive and alive. Jane, we are so grateful for your friendship and love and all that you gave to the life of St. Ann’s Warehouse. We will continue to see you everywhere. We offer our deepest love and compassion to David and Jed for this devastating loss. Bells should toll for our First Lady of DUMBO.”
Chris Havens, a colleague at the Walentas’ real estate development company, Two Trees Management, wrote, “I was blessed to work for David and Jed Walentas in the early years of DUMBO’s rise. Jane was a guiding presence, setting the creative tone with her elegance and sheer class. Unfailingly kind to me and others, inspiring in her taste and vision, she made many substantial contributions to the growth of Brooklyn as a creative center.”
The New England Carousel Museum wrote, “We were saddened to hear of Jane’s passing. Her dedication to the restoration and preservation of PTC #61 aka ‘Jane’s Carousel’ was truly a lifelong labor of love and she will be deeply missed.”
A lady identifying herself as Cate wrote appreciatively about the carousel’s restoration. “As a lifetime resident of the Youngstown, Ohio, area I will be forever indebted to Jane for saving and restoring our beloved carousel. Not only was I on board the last time it turned here in Youngstown (and had ridden for almost an hour to be sure to be on the very last spin), I had the high bid on one of the horses at the auction. I (and everyone around me) cried tears of absolute joy when it sold as a unit, as it deserved to be. She made an entire city area so happy and those of us who remember Idora will always smile when we see pictures of it up and running again…”
Likewise, an acquaintance identifying herself as Nancy from Youngstown, Ohio wrote, “Thank you for restoring my childhood carousel. It never looked as good as when you were done with it.”
Jane’s Carousel earned international acclaim, as Geraldina and Fernando Geddo, a couple from Buenos Aires, wrote, “Jane’s work, dedication, and love for the carousels, was a new air that strengthened a commitment to our Carousel here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Today we feel very sad for this passing, but we are sure that Jane’s inspiration will remain forever.”