By the time she retired in 2005, Chautauqua County Legislator Jane Fagerstrom had given 40 years of service to county government and blazed a trail for other women seeking to follow in her footsteps.
Mrs. Fagerstrom died Saturday in WCA Hospital. She was 79.
Born Jane Nelson in Jamestown, she was a 1945 graduate of Jamestown High School.
Chautauqua County's first executive, former State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Gerace, recalled Mrs. Fagerstrom as a pioneer who opened the door for many other women with similar aspirations.
"She was a pioneer, really, because until she became active around 1975, [Chautauqua] County was a men's locker room. There was no female on the County Legislature," Gerace said.
Gerace said he first met Mrs. Fagerstrom in 1963, when she was a secretary for a law firm in which he was a partner. She later helped Gerace when he was Busti town supervisor and a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
In 1975, when Gerace was elected the first Chautauqua County executive, he took Mrs. Fagerstrom along, first as his secretary and later as the first female executive assistant.
In 1980, Mrs. Fagerstrom became the county's personnel director. Two years later, she was appointed to administer its CETA program, a federal initiative aimed at training and educating people for employment.
Mrs. Fagerstrom retired in 1988 and became involved in the Jamestown Civil Service board of commissioners. In 1993, she was persuaded to run for the County Legislature and in 2000 was elected chairwoman, the first to serve in that capacity.
She retired at the end of 2005.
Mrs. Fagerstrom was past president of the Joint Neighborhood Project aimed at assisting those in Jamestown's poorer neighborhoods; a founding member of the Resource Center, which focused on the training and care of the physically and mentally disadvantaged; and served on the planning committee of the United Way.
In 1997, Mrs. Fagerstrom received an award of excellence from Everywoman Opportunity Center.
"She was quite an extraordinary woman, really," said Gerace. "I think if they were to write a book about the 100 women with the most impact in Chautauqua County, she would be among them."
Mrs. Fagerstrom's husband of more than 50 years, John W., died in 1997.
She is survived by three sons, John, Jeffrey L. and David A.; and a sister, Dorothy Olson.
Gerace will officiate at Mrs. Fagerstrom's service at 11 a.m. today in Christ First United Methodist Church, Buffalo Street and Lakeview Avenue.