Jane Withers life is a story of redemption. Jane is in a good place in her life’s journey right now. She’s overcome drug addictions, eating disorders, brushes with the law, and cancer. When you talk with Jane, you sense she has found tranquility and peace and is willing to share her experiences with you, and the lessons she has learned from them. Jane says, “I want my message to be if you are nailed to the ground with despair, don’t give up, sometimes the solution is just over the next horizon.”
In 1983, Jane came to Denver to seek her fortune. Not really knowing that much about her newly purchased hubcap business; she jumped right in with a strong desire to learn. She admits that the need to stay away from her past addictions was her greatest motivator in becoming a successful businesswoman.
Her famous store, Hub Cab Annie’s, though downsized, is still open for business on East Colfax. - where she says, “There’s never a dull moment!” Several walls of photographic memories are displayed throughout the store depicting the special moments in her colorful life. Jane has made a lot of friends over the years. She’s a striking woman with a special aura about her - one of strength and survival.
Jane is a highly intelligent, well-read former nurse and pharmaceutical salesperson who fought off her “demons,” and has turned her life around to become a well-known community leader and a highly sought after public speaker. Jane has been featured on CNN, the British Broadcast Company (BBC), 60 Minutes, The CBS News Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio and has been written up in the New York Times and many other local publications.
Re-defining her priorities, Jane says she has to be vigilant about taking good care of herself, eating right, getting enough rest, and staying away from harmful addictions - and from dangerous people.
Jane Withers has just wrapped up writing a book about her life. The title of the book is: Hubcap Annie – Marketing & Mayhem… Sounds like we could have a best seller in the making! Best of Luck with Everything Jane.
What are your earliest childhood memories? Living in Upper Arlington in Ohio, we had the Brownies and the Scouts, 4th of July Parade floats, ballet lessons, and horse back riding. We lived in a beautiful home; you could walk to school, and come home for lunch. All the parents knew each other – most of the mom’s were “stay at homes” – and we weren’t allowed to swim in public places because of the polio epidemic. I remember watching Arthur Godfrey on television.
What did you imagine your adult life would be like? I never thought I’d be selling hubcaps! I thought I’d have a wonderful husband, 4 children, be wealthy and comfortable – but it didn’t work out that way.
What’s kept you going through the years? Well, self-reflection and finding humor in it. I believe life is like a tapestry, and God puts some dark threads in our lives from time to time. I happened to get more dark threads than I wanted; you never know, that may have been his plan. My life could be inspirational to people who are bi-polar, or addicted – or suicidal.
What or whom do you credit with helping you turn things around? I started getting help when I started going to the “12 Step Meetings.” Instead of despair, they talk a lot about a higher power – whatever your definition is – it teaches you to get out of yourself and help others. I’ve kind of developed a relationship with a higher power – that’s what has pulled me out. I don’t know what pulled me out when I was so addicted years ago with no one to turn to. I was drinking a lot, drugging a lot, and suicidal. I went to school in New Orleans for a year and stayed in a dormitory with Catholic nuns, and I finally felt safe there. They had huge restrictions, curfews, etc. – which helped me. Sometimes we just have that gentle hand of God guiding us with his hand on our back, and we may not even know it.
Out of all the organizations you are involved in, which one do you enjoy the most? I really enjoy the International Women’s Forum. You meet other women leaders in the community. Women, who make a difference, like Dana Crawford and LaRae Orullian. You never know what interesting woman you are going to sit next too. I’ve really enjoyed that.
Who is your hero? Margaret Thatcher. There probably was a lot of conflict about a woman leading Great Britain, but she did a great job.
Who is your mentor? The cookie lady in Arkansas – Edell Wortz. She helped me so many times with getting out of jail, and getting away from the husband who screamed a lot. She loaned me $5,000 to start my business, and another $5,000 to open my store.
What do you consider your proudest or most significant achievement? Maybe when I got my second degree in Psychology. I had a little hiatus there of no drugs for 4 years when I returned to the University of Florida and finished up my degree. I had a reading problem all my life, and had to take remedial reading. I wanted to go to Graduate School, and they said you don’t read fast enough – there’s something wrong with you!
So I took remedial reading for the 3rd time. So, I not only took the remedial reading again, I ended up getting into Graduate School and got straight A’s; thank you! Pretty good for a slow-reading, drug addict. This is another thing to tell people about not giving up. When they tell you that you have a character defect, or that there’s something wrong with you - you’re not smart enough; just sail your own boat, and see how it goes!
What’s your favorite motto or quote? “Never go to your grave, with your song unsung!”
If you could go back in time, and do something differently, what would it be? Not marry my second husband. Maybe not to even have known him. He really scared me!
What is your advice for a happy marriage? Well, I’ve had two marriages that didn’t work out, but I’d say find a person whom you enjoy talking to. After a while, you will settle into a comfortable routine, and then it will be nice to have a wonderful partner you enjoy talking with.
What one word describes you best? Effervescent.
What one word would others use to describe you? Humorous.
What do you like most about yourself? I have a ton of perseverance. It’s a trait of an entrepreneur.
If your life were a movie, whom would you like to play you? Bridget Fonda.
What is your most treasured possession? My dogs. I’m still grieving over my dog Peaches who passed on.
What is the best advice your Mom/Dad ever gave you? Always be clean for a job interview. Clean hair; no scuffed shoes.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? I had this fantasy of a wonderful man that I just couldn’t seem to have a relationship with that worked. He’s still living in Miami. He’s a very successful attorney; and we met at the University of Florida. The relationship was pockmarked by my poor behavior and lack of communication.
Although there was a very strong attraction, we kept breaking up. He asked me to marry him, but I had too much shame to tell him I was a drug addict at the time - although I was very beautiful and looked like I had it all together, I wasn’t. So I turned him down, and he moved to Miami, ended up marrying a nice lady, and had 3 children. I’ve talked to him twice over the years; but I haven’t talked to him in 10 years. This is kind of like my great loss or unrequited love. I think of him all the time.
If there were one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be? I wish I didn’t have an eating disorder; it takes a lot of my time and diligence to keep that reigned in and causes me a lot of grief.
Why do you think there are so many people addicted to something these days? Maybe because our lives have become easier; now even mowing the lawn is easy. Like the pioneers 200 years ago didn’t worry about having an eating disorder since they were picking bows and arrows out of their hats. They had to work hard, and sling the food away for winter, and raise kids – and lose their babies. They didn’t have time for the finer analysis of addictions.
At this stage in your life, what makes you the happiest? I like to sit in my backyard, where I’ve planted an Aspen tree for 5 women who were really important to me who all died of cancer. Oddly enough, one was Sally Jobe. The Breast Cancer Mammography Centers were named after her. Another one is, my friend, Gloria, a former nurse, who died of Lymphoma, and several other nurses who were very close to me. I planted 37 tulips for one of them, because I was 37 years old when I met her. I also like watching my dogs chase each other around the yard!
What are you really looking forward to in the future? I’m looking forward to my book being published.
Is there something you still want to do? Yes, I would like to sing in Carnegie Hall. I’ve been told I have a good voice. I used to sing with the Colorado Mormon Chorale. Their music was so majestic! And – I want to learn how to ice skate.
What would you like to pass on to future generations? If you don’t like your life you can change it, and take steps to alter the negative things in your life; just keep at it. Take something on that you know nothing about like I did, If there is something in your life that is so unpleasant, you can change things if you just have the courage. I like that word “Courage.”
Jane's Community Service Work: Founding President of the “Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce” 1988-90; Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce – Leadership Roundtable & Small Business Profit Council; Governor Romer’s Economic Development Council – Education & Training Committee and State Advisory Council to Colorado Department of Labor and Employment; Member of International Institute of Education; Kempe Foundation for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse – Speaker’s Bureau; Colorado Ocean Journey – Board of Trustees; International Women’s Forum; Mayor Pena’s Mexican Advisory Council; Community to Community Leadership Exchange – Seattle, Minneapolis, and Baltimore; Denver Downtown Rotary Club.