MURRAY — In late February, the Angels Attic Thrift Store bid farewell to one of its most treasured associates.
After almost 20 years of serving Angels Attic, Jan Basile left the organization having served the full gambit. Starting as a volunteer, she also went on to serve as manager and as a board member, which makes her what is believed to be the only person to assume all three roles.
“That’s a person who really cares about the community and really wants to do good things for the people in that community,” said Bonnie Higginson, who is the current board chair, also giving credit to Jan’s husband, Michael, with whom she worked for many years at Murray State University. “I was actually on the search committee when he was hired as the head of international studies and I met her shortly after that.
“She’s just a remarkable person and she and Mike are among the most giving people I’ve ever known.”
It was Higginson who had the role of informant during Jan’s going-away ceremony, producing a gasp from Jan by telling her that a parting gift was a gift certificate for her and Michael to the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans, where the Basiles now reside after 23 years in Murray. Jan and Michael moved there to be closer to other family members, namely four young grandchildren.
Jan was clearly touched by the gesture.
“I really can’t say anything,” she said, while being overcome emotionally. “You’ve been my family.
“People in the back (of the store) would tell me that I was totally naïve because I had never walked in those kinds of shoes before. Then I had people up front who would say, ‘Why don’t you smile more?’ But it was because I was busy trying to organize everything, and we had all sorts of things going on all of the time, it seemed.
“And I can’t begin to tell you the stories that have happened here. I’ve always thought that we should write a book about it because nobody would quite believe it. But, at the same time, this has been a wonderful community.”
For many years, Angels Attic served as the primary fundraising arm for the Angels Community Clinic that served families and individuals in need by providing free health care. Since the clinic ceased operations a few years ago, Angels Attic now supports HOPE Calloway and the Murray-Calloway County Need Line.
Donna Herndon, who started the clinic 21 years ago, and oversaw the creation of Angels Attic, said Jan and Michael’s fingerprints were left on both missions.
“He was invaluable member of our Angels Clinic board. I’d say Mike was on the board probably 10 years and he served as the chairman of our personnel committee, but they are both very compassionate and selfless people,” Herndon said, noting that both also served in the Peace Corps, an organization that sends volunteers to different parts of the world to assist anyone in need.
Michael served in Turkey. Jan went to Brazil.
“I think a big reason we felt so strongly about Jan being a good choice for manager (of Angels Attic) was that she was totally committed to our mission and I think that came from being in the Peace Corps. Something you learn there is common humanity and I think that showed when she was Angels Attic.”
Jan served seven years as Angels Attic manager, having served a very brief stint as assistant manager before that tenure. She served 10 years on the board. She served two years as a volunteer. While in Murray, she also was a board member for the American Red Cross.
Higginson said that she herself is receiving an understanding of how valuable Jan was to Angels Attic because she has assumed one of the duties Jan had before she and Michael left Murray.
“When we’d get things donated that are antiques or have some potentially significant value, she researched those items and priced them. I’ve taken that job now and it was very interesting to see how she was able to do that and market those items so that Angels Attic could make more money on them,” Higginson said. “Jan, to me, is the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily want attention or expects any kind of attention. She is just incredibly reliable and dedicated to doing the work.
“She was quiet, but she wasn’t a wallflower. She had opinions and she had thoughts and she was the kind of person people listened to. We really miss her.”