BENNINGTON -- Marking her 104th birthday on Thursday, Aug. 2, Jane Hanks is surprisingly not the oldest resident at Emeritus at Fillmore Pond. "But she's definitely our solid second," said David Jansen, activities director at the assisted living and retirement community. (There's another centenarian age 105.)
A long-time North Bennington resident who celebrated the century mark four years ago with a party at the Park-McCullough House, Hanks said Friday she stays active by continuing to play the violin -- an instrument she first picked up at age five, which she later played as a member of the Sage City Symphony.
"(I) have to keep in practice," she said.
Born in Berkeley, Calif., Hanks attended school there where she earned a doctorate in anthropology -- an uncommon distinction for a woman in 1938. "And I've been going ever since."
Hanks credited her longevity to her career in anthropology, which took her and late husband Lucien Hanks across the globe; to every continent but South America.
"Have a profession that's interesting, and takes you places," she advised.
Hanks met her husband in 1938 while doing anthropological work on a Blackfoot Indian reservation under the direction of famed psychologist Abraham Maslow. In 1940, the couple made their residence in North Bennington where Lucien Hanks became a psychology and anthropology professor at Bennington College.
The couple continued to travel, along with their three children, including to Thailand between 1963 and 1979. Hanks is professionally best known for her ethnographic studies of rural Thai villagers and upland tribal people; the bulk of her work resulting from research in southeast Asia. Hanks authored 69 works in 1,328 publications in five different languages, according to Jansen, in addition to 2,086 library holdings. Research materials from Thailand archived at the University of Washington fill 18 boxes measuring nearly 12 cubic feet.
In the time since, Hanks has been the focus of works lauding her early pioneering studies of upland tribes and Akha women.
In 2006, Hanks was the inaugural honoree of North Bennington's Living History Day, beginning the now annual celebration of local pillars in the community.
Jansen said Hanks "lights up" when animal visitors come through the door, continues to participate in many activities, "and truly enjoys just spending time with people."
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