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A life well lived: Stanley Kane turns 100

The arts benefactor recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

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Betsy Hartnett-Kane had big plans for her father Stanley Kane's 100th birthday party on June 5. 

It was meant to be an illustrious affair celebrating the iconic Sarasota arts and nonprofit benefactor with more than 100 guests, a caviar bar, and more. The pageantry even include the invitations, featuring custom stamps of Stanley and his late wife Janet as a happy couple in the 1940s. 

But like so many things in the pandemic, it wasn’t meant to be. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a birthday to remember — Kane instead spent his 100th birthday with a handful of family members at his daughter Betsy Kane-Hartnett's home. It was a smaller event to be sure, but Kane says he took it in stride. It was a time for celebration, reflection, and the people he treasures most.  

“It’s a milestone, I’m glad to have reached it,” Kane said. “I want to go further.”

For those who have been a part of Sarasota’s social scene for the last few decades, it’s easy to remember Janet and Stanley Kane at the many fashionable events and functions supporting nonprofits. Upon moving to Sarasota from New York,  the duo could be seen all over town, supporting organizations such as Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Animal Rescue Coalition and the Sarasota Family YMCA Foundation. They supported their daughter Betsy Kane-Hartnett when she co-founded the Forty Carrots Family Center, which provides preschool and family-planning programs. 


Stanley Kane enjoys his 100th birthday milestone, but says he still has much more to do. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Roles.
Stanley Kane enjoys his 100th birthday milestone, but says he still has much more to do. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Roles.

It's an understatement to say Janet was well-known about town, and that she loved to party. And though he preferred to keep to himself, Stanley loved Janet and followed her wherever she went. Kane-Hartnett said he was the string that was attached to Janet’s helium balloon. 

That immense force of personality that Janet emitted could be challenging for her daughter Betsy at times. You might catch her at a party one minute, and jumping into the pool the next. 

“My mother was bigger than life,” Kane-Hartnett said. “She had an uncanny ability to make whomever she was speaking to feel like that person was the center of the universe … so it was hard to share her.”

In those moments, Betsy found a grounding force in Stanley. 

“He was dependable,” Kane-Hartnett said. “He was reliable. He is everything I've ever wanted to be for my children.”

They grew closer following Janet’s passing in 2009, with Kane-Hartnett becoming his business partner, confidant, and friend. She lives near his home on Siesta Key and, before the pandemic, would have dinner and a game of Scrabble with Stanley every Sunday. She's grown to appreciate her mother's energy more with each passing year, but has also learned much about her father in the recent decades. It's something she's grateful for. 

“He’s an interesting guy,” Kane-Hartnett said. “He was just surrounded by all the showmanship, and my mother, that I wasn't able to see it.”

She thinks of him as Benjamin Button — despite his later years, he finds a way to keep seeming younger. Much of that activity is public. Following Janet’s passing, Stanley continued to be involved in the nonprofit scene, contributing to a number of different organizations.

One could doubt someone as business-oriented as Stanley Kane would be such a consistent patron of the arts — Betsy jokes her mother used to say Stanley was the only man who wouldn’t look up in the Sistine Chapel — but it’s not a mystery if you’ve met him. Kane believes each arts institution adds to the unique tapestry and success of Sarasota. 

“He looked at it as a businessman,” longtime friend Margaret Wise said. “He would say for every dollar we give the arts, you get $6 back in value.’ Other seaside beach towns had beautiful beaches but they don’t have the arts, and that’s a big calling card for us.”

“The arts bring people to Sarasota,” Kane said. 

Time has left its mark, though, and Kane has slowed down his activities as he’s grown older. He is preparing to have his pacemaker defibrillator’s battery replaced after nearly a decade, a procedure that comes with its fair amount of risk. It doesn’t worry him too much, though, and he says the operation will be a piece of cake. After all, he still has more to do, 

 “I don’t do as much charity work as I used to, but I still do my share and more,” Kane said.  

Betsy’s son Jesse couldn’t make his 100th birthday party, but sent something special over for the occasion — a near-half hour video of family and colleagues wishing Stanley a happy 100th. It was a fitting tribute to a long life. 

“It was the culmination of a life well lived,” Kane said. “It made me feel good.”



Harry Sayer

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie editor for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked Black Tie for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs.

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