South Charlotte

Her volunteer record dates to the 1960s

Myers Park resident Jane Neal Bobbitt is no stranger to volunteering.

Bobbitt, whose friends call her "Jane Neal" instead of just Jane, has donated energy and talent to many organizations. One is the Charlotte Nature Museum, adjacent to Freedom Park.

Bobbitt, 94, is a member of The Guild of Discovery Place and Charlotte Nature Museum, a service and social organization supporting both museums. She says she began volunteering for the Nature Museum about 1964.

One of her early endeavors was teaching an animal-handling class with daughter Margie in tow.

"Somewhere I have a picture of her with the little green snake that crawled up across her hair. She didn't mind it, and I didn't. My husband was scared to death of snakes," said Bobbitt.

Another time, a professional animal handler brought a possum to the organization.

"He showed the children - stuck his finger in the little pouch to show where the babies would be ... and as we all looked in I said, 'Well, there are babies in there,' and he said, 'Oh, there couldn't be.' "

But Bobbitt was right.

Just a year or two ago, she had another possum encounter, this time at home. The critter was hiding in her yard waste can, and she had to summon an animal control officer.

"You know, I thought he'd take it and relocate it. Well, he did. He took it. But he relocated it in my backyard," she said.

Bobbitt continues to volunteer with the nature museum, assisting with the Creature Features program, combining animals, crafts, puppet shows, story-telling and refreshments.

If you happen to have the guild's 2011 cookbook, you'll find many of her recipes included. She's also busy crocheting baby blankets and caps for a silent auction to benefit guild projects.

At Discovery Place, Bobbitt used to help in the aquarium area; she said she likes beaches. Originally from coastal Virginia, her voice carries traces of a distinctive Tidewater regional accent.

Bobbitt studied at the University of Virginia on scholarship and worked as a speech therapist, mainly in Virginia and California. She says speech therapy was still a new field when she entered.

Her late husband, Dr. Warren Leslie Bobbitt - "Les" - also led a distinguished career in education, retiring as an assistant superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Their children are daughter Margaret and son Warren.

Bobbitt and her husband traveled internationally. Among their trips: visiting West Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down. "That was really interesting," she said.

She cites doing for others, contributing to society and being around people as benefits of volunteerism.

Bobbitt has forged friendships with the women she's met in the guild.

A 2008 Observer article when she turned 90 reported on the birthday tea and luncheon those friends hosted with a teapot-shaped cake and elaborate hats.

Now Bobbitt is attempting to recruit a recent retiree she knows to volunteer at Charlotte Nature Museum. "She says, 'Well, I just want to be doing something,' and that's the way I feel - I want to be doing something," said Bobbitt.