Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Sun Valley legend Jane McGloin dies at 89

A sunny outlook was Magoo?s lasting legacy

Express Staff Writer

Jane ?Magoo? McGloin poses at the finish line of the Chamberpot cross-country ski race in January 1978 at Elkhorn. ?And I didn?t fall once. Not once!? she said with pride. Express photo by Elaine Somerville.

Sun Valley lost a little of its sunshine and warmth Sunday with the passing of Jane "Magoo" McGloin at age 89 in Twin Falls, although she spent most of the final year of her long life at Blaine Manor in Hailey.

Magoo was a devout Catholic and a Mass to celebrate her life will be Thursday, Aug. 10, at 4 p.m. at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Sun Valley. A community party will follow at Perry's restaurant in Ketchum.

A waitress during the Union Pacific days of Sun Valley and an inspirational local cross-country skier and avid golfer, McGloin was known for her positive attitude, sunny disposition and excellent health.

Heading west from her native Nassau County outside New York City, Magoo first came to Sun Valley in 1950 and became a local legend because of her enthusiasm for life.

"It's the end of an era," was a common response to the news of Magoo's death. Perry's owner Keith Perry, who employed Magoo for 15 years until just two years ago, said, "Every day, someone still asks about Magoo."

Longtime schoolteacher Midge Patzer, who frequently visited Magoo at Blaine Manor, said Monday, "Heaven is a better place and last night the clouds had a silver lining. I'm sure Magoo is up there telling God how wonderful heaven is.

"Magoo loved people. And she was so positive about life. Even when it got tough at the end, Magoo would sit there saying, 'Isn't it great just to live today!' She praised the things she loved and was just an incredibly inspirational person."

"Nobody has more fun than me," was a common Magoo response to just about everything. Whatever she said, she would repeat twice. And her good nature was contagious. "I like everybody—everybody's my friend. I'm heavenly happy. A lot of people can't say that," she would say with inflection.

Magoo's demeanor contributed to her longevity. "Magoo was healthy all her life," said Vicky Graves, who worked in the Sun Valley drug store for Union Pacific after her arrival at the resort in 1953. "We all had free medical care from the company. Never, not once, did I fill a prescription for Magoo."

She drank tea and was proud of the fact that she rarely if ever had a sick day or came to work late during her waitressing tenure at Warm Springs Restaurant starting in 1977.

Rarely did Magoo get upset about anything, Patzer said. She explained, "One thing that always impressed me about Magoo was how non-judgmental she was.

"She loved the kids, teenagers especially. That doesn't mean she understood them. She would say, 'Oh, the things they wear!' Then she would think twice, slap herself and say, 'Get in the 2000s, Magoo!' She would always refer to herself in the third person, saying, 'Magoo doesn't have to understand the things they do.' In that way she was grateful about life itself."

Magoo once said, "One of the reasons I like living in Ketchum so much is because the town is youth-oriented. I love to work with young people. It keeps me feeling young."

She lost her parents at a young age and never had it easy. That doesn't mean Magoo had an insatiable drive to finish first in her beloved cross-country ski races—although she was probably first around Bigwood golf course, one-putting with zest and zipping through nine holes in an hour.

Magoo, who first stepped into cross-country skis at the age of 62, would say, "I'm the toughest little tiger in the world, but I don't care if I'm last. I'm not a natural athlete. I've had to work hard for everything. Nothing's easy, but I love it."

She was a figure skater in her youth, often skating in the old Madison Square Garden in New York City. When she came west, first to Colorado Springs and finally to Sun Valley in 1950, she found herself trying sports she hadn't tried before.

Like alpine skiing. That's where Magoo got the nickname that hearkened back to the early television cartoon character with Jim Backus' voice.

It was on Ruud Mountain.

Graves was there the day Magoo earned the moniker that followed her the rest of her life. Magoo was so famous she even had mail addressed to her at, simply, "Magoo, Sun Valley."

"The Sun Valley employees got to ski on Ruud Mountain but we all had to boot-pack it," Graves said. "It was a winter day in January and the snow was up to our waists. We were up boot-packing and Magoo fell and lost her glasses. She hardly knew how to ski but still, how do you fall boot-packing? It's not easy. Still, she did it and was terrified. To calm her down someone said, maybe Jerry Sidwell, 'Don't worry, we'll get you down, Mrs. Magoo.'

"A toboggan came up to bring her down. From then on, it was just Magoo."

Magoo would say to anybody listening, "I can't see a thing, can't see a thing. That's why they call me Magoo."

She was a learner.

"When I came here," Magoo said about Sun Valley, "I didn't even know how to ride a bike. All I could do is skate a little. I picked up sports like skiing, golf and tennis and found I could do them a little better than the average person."

She was an irreplaceable Sun Valley character, one who followed restaurateur Bert Bender from Trail Creek Cabin to Warm Springs Restaurant.

Customers trying to make up their minds about luncheon selections at Warm Springs Restaurant wouldn't be judged by Magoo, their busy waitress. Instead she'd say, with good cheer, "Don't rush, I've got nothing but time."

Ollie Cossman came to Sun Valley in 1954 and worked as a waitress in the Lodge Dining Room, while Magoo was first working waiting tables at The Ram and living in the dorms. That was before Magoo moved downtown and over Knob Hill to her "dollhouse trailer" in the old Ketchum Trailer Park.

"It's a cozy little house, cozy little house, I love my place, love my place," said Cossman, mimicking Magoo affectionately.

"Magoo was someone who had a little motorized battery in everything she did," said Cossman, surprised when she finally learned Magoo's age upon her death this week. "We have an Old Broads Lunch every other Thursday and we've all known Magoo for 50 years and nobody ever knew her age."

Magoo wasn't afraid of hitchhiking around town. She stuck out her thumb with gusto, just like she did everything. "Sometimes the police give me a ride," she said. At age 63, she finally took up driving a car and could be seen tooling around town in her 1969 Mustang—although not in snow.

Her last car, not the latest of models by any means, had a bumper sticker that boasted, with pride, "Magoo's New Car."

Even at age 87, not in the best of health, she badgered Keith Perry about coming back to work in the restaurant and bussing tables. "She just liked to see the people, even if she didn't know their names. We loved Magoo. She was a little ornery but always positive. It's the end of an era," Perry said.

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