There She Lives…
At home with Miss America Jane Jayroe
Photos by Don Risi
The phrase “Miss America” likely conjures mental images of an impeccably dressed young woman, perhaps wearing a bejeweled crown and either onstage or perhaps isolated somewhere in a room out of a film fairytale. So it’s something of a surprise to see Jane Jayroe out in public, pushing a basket of fall mums at TLC Garden Center, or checking out the produce at the local Homeland.
Jayroe was named Miss America 1967, and for more than 50 years, she has been Oklahoma’s claim to royalty. Her charming demeanor and warm smile immediately put me at ease as she welcomes me – remarking that this will help make her faithful pup Maggie “quite the celebrity” – into the spacious Nichols Hills home she shares with husband Jerry.
“Jerry and I both grew up in rural America,” she says. “He in Texas, and me in Laverne, Oklahoma. The ‘French Country Farmhouse’ style really appealed to us, and we feel it is a beautiful combination of all the things we love. It is a very sophisticated design, yet there’s an earthiness, simplicity and warmth that appealed to both of us.”
The couple bought the house a few years ago. They knew they wanted sleeping quarters on the main floor, so they turned the library into an en suite, and added his-and-hers bathrooms and closet space onto the house.
“I have a seating area in the bedroom that allows me to look out on the changing seasons,” Jayroe says. “Each morning is my quiet time with God. I spend time with Him, I read and then I write in my journal. It is important to have a place where I can watch nature, and for me, that space is the chair near the fireplace in my bedroom.”
Throughout the house are mementos of a life well-lived.
“The house really reflects our interests,” she says. “Not only our love of family and friends but also the travels Jerry and I have done together. Everywhere we turn is a memory: A rug is from Ephesus, that bowl from Tibet, some wooden giraffes from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania. We both grew up in small, rural towns, and to think we’ve traveled around the world is so incredible. We treasure both experiences, and our home reflects those memories.”
The house is designed to have a view from every room, Jayroe said, and having nature as part of her decor brings her much joy. Music is also an important part of her life.
“We regularly attend the concerts by the OKC Philharmonic,” she says. “I rarely miss the performances scheduled at Oklahoma City University, and I often visit Broadway to see the latest musical theater productions. It’s appropriate that we walk through our music room many times a day. Part of our piano is a picture display of some of our favorite musicians and moments with them, and some of my favorite performing moments, such as the Miss America announcement when I won.”
On this visit, the crown she won that night in 1967 sits in a glass case atop the piano.
“Typically, I do not keep the crown on display,” Jayroe says with a chuckle. “I do not shine it, and I do not even look at it very often. But I am very proud of it and what it represents. In many ways, it seems like it happened to a different person. But it did change my life in miraculous ways, and for that, I am forever grateful.”
Most Oklahomans remember the Miss America title, while another generation remembers Jayroe from her days as a primetime news anchor. She shared the spotlight with Linda Cavanaugh on KFOR-TV, before moving to the evening slot at KOCO-TV. In 1999, she ventured into public service and was Secretary of Tourism and Recreation until 2003.
Today, Jayroe is a best-selling author. Her latest book, Practice: Unleashing the Power of Faith, was released late last year.
As the holidays approach, Jayroe appreciates having space to entertain her family and friends.
“Thanksgiving is coming up, and my sister still holds the traditional dinner in her house,” she says. “Every other year, my son Tyler and his family come here for Christmas, and this house so beautifully allows us to celebrate together. We spend most of our time in the kitchen and television space. It is cozy enough for just us, or the larger family with all ages of kids to lump together on the navy sectional like a pile of puppies.”
Things change with time, Jayroe said, and she has learned to appreciate every day.
“Life hasn’t always been as easy as it might appear on the surface,” she says. “But I am so grateful for all of it. Jerry and I both grew up in modest homes. We never dreamed we would live in such a house as this, so we are very grateful. But more than anything, we’re grateful we can share our home with each other and our families and friends. I think with age comes an awareness of how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude.”