What to say about our incredible mother? Sarah Jane Belt Polk had so many wonderful characteristics. She was curious and intrepid: willing to go on adventures and to learn new skills. Throughout her life with her husband, George Merritt Polk Jr., she camped, sailed, danced, hiked, traveled and in general embraced life with both hands.
Born in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1928, into a warm and wonderful extended family, Jane was the youngest of 5 children. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Journalism. She had been known to say that she thought there was a gene for curiosity, and you either had it or you didn’t; and she definitely had it. After Jane and George married in 1949, they spent a couple of years here and a couple of years there. In 1955, in the spirit of adventure they loaded the car with all their possessions to see where they would land. It was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida that George disappeared for a morning and came back with a job with a local architecture firm. Fort Lauderdale was their home for 25 years and where all their children were born.
In Ft. Lauderdale, Jane was active in the Presbyterian Church, served on the Board of Directors of the Children’s Home Society, and was active in Beaux Art in many roles, including leading the organization. It was here that Jane and George square danced, bird watched, raised children, and raced small boats, sometimes in the intercoastal waterway as part of the Gulf Stream Sailing Club. While in Fort Lauderdale, it was through the initial efforts of George and Jane that a tract of land on New River became a park called The Secret Woods, preserving this piece of native Florida.
In 1977 George and Jane moved to Clemson SC. Jane found ways to contribute to her new community. She was very active at Fort Hill Presbyterian church and over the course of 44 years her service there included: two terms as an Elder; Chair of both the Congregational Care and the Christian Action Committees; as well as in many other areas. Working through the Communities Ministries Committee, Jane’s diligent efforts greatly contributed to the creation of Safe Harbor II, a domestic violence shelter. In the later years Jane enjoyed contributing and volunteering at the Minister’s Cook- off. Besides her church work, Jane was very active with The League of Women Voters, filling many roles in that organization. And Jane’s relatively recent interest in family genealogy led to her acceptance into the Daughter’s of the American Revolution.
Returning to Clemson from a year long stint in Genoa Italy where George was the Clemson Architecture Professor, Jane and her good friend Julie Craig collaborated on a travel guide of South Carolina small towns, called Historic Holidays (1983). Jane and George found an outlet for their love of sailing at the Keowee Sail Club and enthusiastically raced their boat there for many years. They also danced both with the Folk Dance group at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church and contra danced with the Harvest Moon Society, until ill health prevented them from doing so. Jane and George in their retirement years traveled to Ireland, England, Greece and to Sweden, among other places.
Sarah Jane Polk is survived by her four children, Susan Jen Phillips (Michael), Ann Scott Ewel(James), Daniel George Polk (Pamela), Sarah Merritt Polk and by her five grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband of 68 years George Merritt Polk Jr., by her parents, Carl and Jenavieve (Richcreek) Belt, and by her four siblings: Robert Belt, Carl Raymond Belt, Mary Margaret Mountford , and Bert Belt.
A celebration of her life will be held at a later date when it is safe to gather and travel.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Fort Hill Presbyterian Church, 101 Edgewood Avenue, Clemson, SC 29631.
Visit RobinsonFuneralHomes.com or Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home & Cremations, Central-Clemson Commons.
Many of us have such fond memories of Jane and George. I know I do.