Story and photos by PAUL MOSSINE
Jane Weitkemper, 82, says hers has grown so large that there’s no longer any space for more collectibles at her home in East Campus.
Jane’s collection includes paperweights, Pillsbury cookbooks, refrigerator magnets, books, photographs and fine china. But more than anything, Jane is proud of her collection of frog-themed items.
“Almost on everything, there’s a frog,” she says, holding up a teapot adorned with the small amphibians. “I even have a frog coat.”
Jane says her obsession with frogs began when she stepped on one at age 2.
“I killed it, and I just cried and cried and cried,” she says. “My mother couldn’t appease me; she tried everything, so I said, ‘I’m just gonna collect frogs.’”
Harry has his own collection, too. In the basement, his workshop is surrounded by piles of walkers, canes, crutches, pots, pans, lamps and sewing machines that he repairs and donates to various charities and friends. He is especially proud of an antique Coke machine that sits in the corner.
“I fix ‘em up and give ‘em away,” he says.
The couple met shortly after Harry’s service in World War II, and they married in 1947. After having several children, they settled in Columbia to be closer to the university. They bought Eastgate Apartments in 1975. They owned Eastgate and several other properties in the East Campus area for 30 years.
After selling their properties in 2005, the Weitkempers continued to live as renters in East Campus. Jane says she appreciates the numerous college-age students who come to her for advice when she’s out planting flowers in her garden.
“A lot of them come talk to me about their problems,” she says. “I guess it’s the gray hair, maybe.”
A giant 1,200-pound concrete frog also attracts children and adults passing her house, Jane says.
“I would be wealthy if I had a dollar for every time somebody knocked on the door and said, ‘could we take a picture of Johnny on the frog?’” she says.
Decorated with frog ornaments and glass paperweights gleaming in the windows, the Weitkempers’ house is a unique and recognizable place on East Campus. Jane says she’s glad when people stop by to chat and she is always willing to explain her collection, which has so enriched her life over the years.
“Some people would say it’s odd. I don’t think it’s odd at all. It’s things that we like.”