Jane Rust Cox

Jane Rust Cox, as remembered by Henry Rust.

Jane Rust Cox was Mary Elizabeth Lee Fleming Rust’s middle child. My earliest memory of her was that she maintained a room at my Grandmother’s house on Wirt St. although she was rarely there. I think she was mostly working in and around DC by the late 1950’s when I first started visiting there but she had started her career in the Far East. I remember the wall of glass cases in her Wirt St. bedroom filled with dolls from all over the world.

in the 1940’s Jane worked in China during the latter days of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. I’m not sure where she might have been in the 1950’s. I think she worked somewhere in the semi-clandestine branches of the foreign services, or even the CIA. I also remember her working for my father for a brief period, circa 1959, in York, PA. She had an apartment in York for a while. (More about all of this from my brother, Bill, below)

By 1960, Jane seemed to be in Leesburg most of the time. She was my mother’s age (b. 1918) so she would have been 42. Seems early for retirement, even from the US Government, so she must have been working somewhere.

She had taken up the company of a splendid older man by the name of William J. Cox, Billy; about 25 years her senior (at the time Jane was 42 and Billy was 67). Billy had already led several lives, (one as the Commissioner of Highways for the State of Connecticut) and was now spending his time fishing and camping as he wandered the country in an aging and travel-worn, late 1940‘s “woody” station wagon well suited to this purpose. I think the car had a name, like Nellibelle, but I can’t remember what it was. I get the impression that he was frequently off exploring the US, for months at a the time; often in the southwest, particularly during the colder periods of the year; just him and his dog, a dachshund (named Gretchen?).

Billy had a little house on E. Cornwall St. in Leesburg. The little house had actually been a built as a lawyer’s office. It had a little bedroom and bath upstairs, and a living room with a “closet” kitchen on the main floor, the whole place filled to the gills with books, geological finds and other artifacts.

Billy and Jane had become almost constant companions, sharing an enjoyment of simple pleasures, the solitude of fishing and camping, and each other’s very sweet company. To probably more than a few raised eyebrows, they decided to get married (summer 1962). It was a simple wedding at my grandmother’s house.

Jane and Billy c1970

The little house on E. Cornwall St. was tripled in size and Jane and her dolls fit right in. The woodie was replaced with a larger camping vehicle (a fitted-out Corvair van). The Corvair might have had a personal name, too.

Billy Cox will always be the standard by which I measure elegance. A remarkable man, who had gained the wisdom and composure of age and experience. He had nothing to prove, and everything to offer. The mixture of Billy and Jane was beautiful chemistry, and he absolutely doted on her. They both seemed to be smiling all the time.

Jane, also, had a dog; a mexican border collie-like breed, who’s name was Shakey. Shakey was very afraid of thunder, a trait that they would utilize. He was an active dog who would range far and wide on the many fishing excursions to their camp on the Shenandoah. When they wanted to reel Shakey in, they would set off a tiny firecracker. Shakey would instantly materialize and wedge between Jane’s legs. I don’t know if this constitutes cruelty to animals or not. It didn’t seem so at the time. Who knows?

After Shakey died, Jane was presented with one of my mother’s dogs, Flossy, who was of similar character and stature and had recently fallen victim to some bullying by my mother’s pack of spoiled little ruffians. This turned out to be a great pairing for all concerned. Flossy was very happy to be keeping her own house.

Jane was a heavy cigarette smoker. In the mid to late 1970’s she started having serious respiratory consequences which ultimately hospitalized her (tuberculosis?). While in the hospital, Jane was purportedly given a wrong medication and died as a result. I can not remember the date, either 1977 or 1980 (one of the periods I was living in Leesburg).

I wish I had been able to spend more time with Jane. That is one lesson I have learned. Don’t wait too long to get to the things you mean to do.

Billy Cox, Jane Rust Cox, Georgia Jeffries, Evelyn King (my mothers best friend), Margaret Rust, Harriot Fleming and Roberta Rust Jeffries at New Green Mont c1970

I will rely on, and look forward to, my siblings helping fill in the many holes. My brother, Lee, remembers that Jane used to call us crazy cats: “What are you crazy cats up to?”

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Gladys Rust, Jane Rust and S. M. Rust at the wedding of Margaret Dole and W. F. Rust Jr. (Feb. 14, 1942)

Jane Rust Cox as remembered and researched by William F. Rust III.

Jane was Mom’s age almost exactly, both born in 1918. Unlike her younger sister Betsy, she was not much of a youthful socialite, but probably always an avid reader. She started giving me some of her childhood books when I was 7 or 8, when she befriended me at Gran’s Wirt Street house. Her bedroom seemed filled with finely carved wood and jade items from China and Japan, where she had recently worked. She gave me The Earth for Sam, a beginner’s geology book, and Dr. Dolittle, which she said contained parts which I should not tell Alec about (I didn’t understand then). As she told me, she was indeed always close to her father, W.F. Rust Sr., who used to tell her not to go mooning about, and to whom as a teenager she wrote intelligent, caring, and articulate letters from a boarding school she didn’t much like (I have some of the letters).

Later she went to Columbia University in NY during WW II where she got a degree in Far Eastern studies,and then worked at the OSS under General Donovan (as did Mom for a while). According to Dad, Jane became private secretary to T.V. Soong, the brother in law of Chiang-Kai-Shek. who in 1940 appointed Soong as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Washington.  Jane kept diaries which describe this period (which I have not seen), that passed to one of the Brundages. Jane and Billy Cox were a good match. Their Leesburg house was a welcome haven, and she always retained correspondence with many far eastern friends. She died prematurely in the summer of 1977, when I was away in Mexico. She liked many things; I remember going to a Stan Getz concert with her and Mom in Georgetown in 1976.
Two items of interest on Jane have been found among boxes of family records that Dad accumulated, and I have stored since Mom’s death in 1995.

1) A group of photos taken by Jane Rust when she went to China in 1946-8. These amount to about 100 small, snapshot-size prints, along with additional photos she took in her travels through Europe.

Regarding China, some of these pictures fortunately have captions written on the back by Jane. These captions are sometimes detailed and sometimes very sparse- the latter reflecting Jane’s dry sense of humor.  The captions have allowed the use of some detective work, to reconstruct some of what Jane was doing in China, where she was, and who were some of her associates during that period right after WW2. (More on this below).

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“I certainly spoiled that one” (1946)


This photo, taken in Changsha. the capital of Honan Province, shows Jane Rust standing with a young man named Pete (?), who appears in several other pictures. In the background is the regional CNRRA (Sinra) office where Jane worked. Pete, meanwhile, worked for the Agricultural Industries Service (AIS) in Shaoyang, located in the SW corner of Honan Province. The AIS was also part of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Authority (UNRRA).

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“at Tommy Wongs” (1946)

Tommy Wong’s house, located just outside Shanghai, is documented by Janes photos from June, 1946, as a gathering spot for staff members of CNRRA, the Chinese National Relief and Restoration Authority, which included Jane Rust. Wong was related to Dr. Sao-Ke Sze, a trustee of CNRRA who was well known as a former Chinese Ambassador to Great Britain and then the USA, as well as Chinese delegate to the League of Nations. Also appearing in Jane’s photos at Wong’s house was S. Z. Yang, a director of CNRRA.


These photos, along with captions and some explanatory notes where needed, are being placed on the website at rufamily.org/fam (search for “Jane Rust”). There are currently seven photos there, including all pictures of Jane herself at ages 28-29 (photos taken by others). The rest of the photos were taken by Jane herself and, although some are not directly related to family history, all are interesting in a documentary sense. I will put the whole collection of Jane’s China photos on the website as soon as possible.  They should be correlated with any letters or diaries covering this period in Jane’s life (if these can be obtained).

2) Letters written by Jane when she was ages 7-14. There was a collection of 12 such letters found with the photos. All but one are written to her father, W.F. Rust Sr., mostly in 1932-3 from St. Timothy’s school in Baltimore. At that time the family still lived in Pittsburgh or were just moving to Leesburg. Another letter from this period at St. Timothy’s was written to Jane’s grandmother, Harriet Jane Downman Fleming. The letters in one sense appear typical of a young lady not too entranced with her school (which she at one point calls “a would-be convent”). They also seem bright, articulate, and very caring about W.F. Rust Sr., who was severed from Koppers Co. during this period.

These letters are also being put on the website (rufamily.org/fam) and will also appear on a search for “Jane Rust.”

Information on Jane’s stay in China (1946-1948):

Lacking any documents other than the photos, I have been able to reconstruct the following:

– Jane worked for the CNRRA (pronounced “Sinra”), the Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. CNRRA was created in January 1945 to administer the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in China. (UNRRA had been set up in 1943 to carry out global reconstruction in the wake of WW2.)
CNRRA was set up  by T. V. Soong, former Chinese Minister to the USA and finance minister in China from 1945-1947, for whom Jane had worked at some point during WW2 (perhaps as a liason with the OSS). Its functions included emergency relief, a public health program, repatriating Chinese refugees,  and rebuilding China’s agricultural and industrial sectors after the massive destruction of WW2. The CNRRA headquarters was in Nanking and its operational center was in Shanghai.
– Jane and her colleagues flew over to Shanghai via Hawaii and Guam in late May, 1946 (she has photos of the C-47 plane, a twin-engined,  DC-3 type). She stayed in Shanghai in June, 1946 and spent a short time living in a hotel (The New Royal), playing tennis, and socializing with members of CNNRA including some of the family of Dr. Sao-Ke Sze, who was a past ambassador to the US and very highly regarded.

-Jane then went to work at Changsha, the capital of Honan province in southern China, which was one of 15 regional offices of CNRRA. Changsha was on the Hsiang River, a Yangtse tributary, and there are a number of Jane’s photos showing goods being unloaded at the docks of Changsha. There are also photos of CNRRA personnel using amphibious craft (called “ducks”) to travel on the Hsiang river to other towns in Honan province such as Siangtan and  Shaoyang. In the latter town was an office of the UN-sponsored Agricultural Improvement Service (AIS), one of whose staff members, a young man named Pete, was photographed more than any other.

– At some point, perhaps late in 1946 or early in 1947, Jane and the rest of the CNRRA staff were transferred to (i.e., evacuated to) Taiwan, where there was another regional office. This is because the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists had by then spread all over China, events which the US Dept of State and the UN had not forseen.  Originally, during WW2, the Communists were regarded (by the US) as on the same side as the Nationalist army led by Chaing-Kai Shek. They were actually only on the same side as the Russians. When WW2 ended, in Jan. 1946 General Marshall headed a delegation to China to broker a joint government between Nationalists and Communists. This did not succeed, however. The Communists pulled out of the talks and the Civil War commenced, won by the Communists save the housen 1949-1950.

All of this severely curtailed (ended) the planned relief work in China in which Jane and many others were employed. The Communists did not permit any relief work in areas they controlled and simply stole the materials.

– There is another group of photos by Jane of Taiwan (Formosa) where she lived and worked for a period (ending before 1949). This will take further research to establish any details. One Taiwan photo has been put on the website of Jane sitting outside her house with a dog.

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“Inside our front gate”

One thought on “Jane Rust Cox

  1. Sarah DeLashmutt Emerson: Reading about Jane Rust and Billy Cox made my day. I remember going to visit Billy Cox after school with my mom and sister Jane. I never got to meet Jane Rust because she died before I was adopted. I was pretty young (4-7?) when we’d go and hang out with Billy Cox. I remember that he had tons of buckeyes in the living room that we’d play with. A funny memory was the lazy Susan on his kitchen table that was filled with various bottles of medicine and vitamins. He also kept a pill organizer filled with M&M’s on it. He told us it was his medicine, eat a handful then give us some too. Once we figured out it was candy and he wasn’t offering us his meds, we’d all have some “medicine”. Probably not a blog worthy memory, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. Billy Cox was such wonderful man.


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