About the Jam Maker
My full name is Jill Rumoshosky Werner, but I go by Jill Werner these days. Feel free to call me Jill.
I grew up 10 miles north of New York City in a charming little village along the Hudson River. My father worked in the RCA Building (now called 30 Rock) in Rockefeller Center and, whenever my family visited his office in the city, we took the opportunity to sample a different national cuisine for lunch or dinner. My hometown was also known for its Italian and Jewish populations and the restaurant/deli options were amazing. With all of this exposure to wonderful foods, I learned to cook a variety of different international dishes by the time I was a teenager. Fast forward many years to 2014 when I moved to Northwest Arkansas and it wasn't much of a stretch to add the historic cuisine of Bella Vista to that list.
My professional life has also been an interesting journey. I earned an M.A. in audiology and while still in my 20s, I worked as a research audiologist at a hearing aid manufacturer in Minnesota, where I published the first research on in-the-ear hearing aids. After moving to Kansas, I used that experience to become a software technical writer for NCR, writing computer reference manuals for their retail operating systems. After a layoff, I was fortunate to work for a number of years as a systems engineer in an IBM marketing office, specializing in small systems for the manufacturing industry, as well as office applications. After leaving IBM, I completely changed directions again and became a visual artist, primarily working in conceptual art using quilted forms and other materials. My artwork has been shown in over 20 museums and I was privileged to curate two international traveling exhibitions, but I retired my art career when I moved to Bella Vista. My art website is still online, if you want to see it.
I currently live in Bella Vista, Arkansas with my husband, Steve. I could rave about him for hours as he's the nicest, smartest and most gorgeous man I've ever met, but that's something only his mother wants to hear. We also have a cat who has been with us for two years and has never let us touch her because she used to be feral, then developed PTSD at the shelter. Her name is Waldo, which really suits her.
My mother canned jam using the paraffin-top method and she'd store the jars lined up along the cement walls of the basement in our 1890s Victorian house. I'd always check the jars whenever I was down there and if I spotted a little bit of jam leaking up to the top of the paraffin, I would lick it off, which probably gave me a great immune system. When I moved to Kansas, I fell in with a group of friends who liked to pick their own fruit and make jam. I happily joined their fun, then began to make my own. More than forty five years later, jam making still one of my favorite things to do.
Once I moved to NW Arkansas, I volunteered for years at the Bella Vista Historical Museum, where I'm still on the board. During that time, I gave away thousands of jars of my homemade jams in exchange for donations, raising over $13,000. In the last year or two, my interest in native fruits and edible flowers has grown, which fits nicely with my background in the area's historic foods. I've been giving presentations on the historical cuisine of Bella Vista and Benton County since 2016.
I develop almost all of the "regular" fruit flavors that I make at this point. When I retired my visual art career, I think that my creativity seeped over into my jam making. It's certainly been a lot of fun!