Jan Mathis got involved in politics as a young woman, and it changed her life.
She was from New Ulm, Minn., and was an early supporter of Harold Stassen, her state’s ex-governor, in his 1952 presidential campaign.
And at a Stassen event in Minnesota, the then Jan Streissguth met another Stassen backer, Edison Mathis. Ed grew up in Ventnor, and met Stassen at the University of Pennsylvania, where Stassen was once president.
The New Jersey boy and the Minnesota girl hit it off — quickly. Jan and Ed were married within a year and had a son, Lee, in 1953.
There was nothing new in a speeded-up schedule for Jan. She finished Vassar College in three years and the University of Minnesota law school in two, her family says.
But she hadn’t practiced law for long before she headed to New Jersey with Ed. And Jan lived the rest of her life here — in Margate before a move to Egg Harbor Township in 2004 — although she died at 85 last month in Richmond, Va.
Her daughter, Ann Ballinger, lives in Richmond, and Lee Mathis lives in Colorado. Her family will hold a memorial service for Jan at 4 p.m. Thursday in Central United Methodist Church in Linwood.
And lots of the people there will know Jan from politics. After she moved to Margate in the ’50s, she raised her kids, practiced law part-time and ran a travel agency. But by 1975, Jan was working for votes again, running for Atlantic County Surrogate.
She won, and kept winning for 30 years. She retired, at 78, in 2005.
Lee Mathis says his mom enjoyed helping people in the Surrogate’s office, which put her in charge of wills, adoptions and similar legal matters.
“She hated campaigning,” her son adds, but she was apparently good at it — she won six times, usually by big margins.
Jan knew hard times in her life. In 1961, she was pregnant again as a hurricane brushed by the local coastline. She suffered massive internal injuries and lost her baby when a wave crashed through a Margate bulkhead and pinned her under the wreckage.
Doctors said Jan would never have another baby, so she and Ed were trying to adopt when Jan got pregnant. Ann was born in 1964.
Ed, a stockbroker, died in 1982, so Jan was a widow almost 30 years. But she had her work, and a lifelong love of golf — she was a frequent women’s champion at Atlantic City Country Club, and she went on an annual golf and tennis trip with Ann for 30 years.
Jan was active in charities, and she had lots of friends — some from bridge, another game she was good at.
But even though she lived most of her life in Margate, after 1961, she never had much use for the favorite local pastime.
“She didn’t like the ocean,” her daughter says, “or the waves.”
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