Mets organist Jane Jarvis remembered as creative soul
Jane Jarvis' story always was a remarkable, lyrical one. She was orphaned at 13 when both of her parents were killed by a train. She was a classically trained musician who was revered by her peers in jazz. She became a music industry executive at a time when women almost never reached that height.
But nothing in her life struck a chord with the public more than her sprightly renditions of "Meet the Mets" and "Let's Go Mets" (the latter was her own composition) on the Thomas organ at Shea Stadium.
Jarvis, whose death Monday at age 94 was announced Saturday, will remain a mainstay in the hearts of New Yorkers.
"I can remember, note for note, the way she played 'Meet the Mets,' " Ron Swoboda, one of the 1969 Miracle Mets, said yesterday. "She had some pretty good jazz chops, but she never overplayed the organ at Shea. What made it special was that you knew it was Jane Jarvis playing that music.''
Swoboda has become a jazz buff since moving to New Orleans. "This is a sad day,'' he said.
Longtime Mets fans will never forget the light touch with which she played such tunes as "Felix the Cat" for second baseman Felix Millan and the jazz hit "Scrapple From the Apple" during a manager's argument with umpires.
Her blend of innocence, humor and understated sophistication, on top of a baseline of respected musical ability, made Jarvis as big a name as many players from 1964 to 1979. In a 2008 interview with Newsday, she reflected on her era at Shea and said, "It was too wonderful for words."
At the time, Jarvis' health was not good, but her spirits were soaring. She had just been allowed back into her East 50th Street apartment after having been displaced for a week by damage from a crane collapse. She said then: "You are talking to one of the happiest people who ever lived . . . Everything I have ever wanted in this life fits in a one-room apartment."
As Howie Rose, a childhood Mets fan turned Mets broadcaster said not too long ago: "She had a different lilt to everything she played, including 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' There were certain things unique to that ballpark, and she was one of them."
Her belongings included an upright piano, which she played every day. Jarvis spent her final months at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J., where her son Brian was with her when she died. Jarvis also is survived by daughter Jeanne Garcia of Florida.
"She was the star out there," said Ann Ruckert, a Manhattan-based musician and teacher and longtime close friend of Jarvis. "A few of us would go to the nursing home and have jam sessions with her."
Jarvis was a child prodigy with a terrific memory for songs. As a child, she played any tune anyone requested at a department store in Milwaukee. She took refuge in music after her parents were killed. (Jane didn't realize until she saw the obituaries that her father was American Indian, Ruckert said.) She studied at several conservatories, had her own TV show and was offered a gig playing for Braves games.
She moved to New York in the early 1960s and took a job with the Muzak recording company. "She started as a receptionist and wound up as senior vice president in charge of all production," Ruckert said. "She kept all the jazz musicians working."
They would come to hear her play at Zinno and other clubs in Greenwich Village. She cherished their friendship, and that of Mets fans.
"Her whole life," Ruckert said, "was too wonderful for words."