Iron in her blood: Lake grad has hand in building new elementary

By Debbie Rogers

[email protected]

MILLBURY — Jane (Trace) Mannon is lifting up Lake Elementary.


Mannon, an operating engineer with Local 18 who attended the former elementary school as a child, is running the crane/boom that is used to set the iron on the new school.

Jane Mannon, a union ironworker who attended the former Lake Elementary as a child, is running the crane/boom that is used to set the iron on the new school.

supplied photo

The family ties run deep in the Lake schools.

Three generations of her family attended Lake Elementary: Herself, her sons and also her father, Mark Trace.

Mannon and her husband, Brad, are parents to Trace, 18, and Alex, 10. Alex will get to enjoy the result of Mannon’s work on the school.

“As a fifth grader, he’ll go into the middle school (this school year),” Mannon said. “And then, the year following, the fifth and sixth grade will go back into the elementary.”

Her dad still lives nearby in Walbridge; the Mannons live in Moline. Her mom, Jorjanna, died in 2009. Mark Trace is a retired ironworker.

“He comes over most days and he’ll stop being retired and see how we’re doing, and grade me,” Mannon said.

Jane Mannon talks about operating a crane at the Lake Elementary construction site.

supplied photo s

She’s been on the job for 24 years.

Mannon said after graduating from Lake High School in 1993, she thought she would be a police officer. She is a graduate of the academy.

“I was two weeks out of high school and times were really booming for construction. My dad … brought me on and put me to work.”

For four years, she worked on the ground, hooking onto the crane, while attending college to become an officer. Then, Mannon started thinking about doing the crane work full time.

“I always remember thinking, ‘man, I’d be really good on the crane.’ I don’t like the heights, but I know what they’re doing, what it takes. I can see where everything goes,” she said.

Operating a crane can be compared to playing a video game, Mannon said. It’s a lot of hand-eye coordination, muscle memory and depth perception.

“There’s four controllers — sometimes you’re doing them all at the same time,” she said, adding that the job also requires visualizing and picking targets.

“I’m booming down and swinging, and cabling up everything, as I’m going,” Mannon said.

Mannon worked on the Veterans Glass City Skyway in Toledo.

“I was on that for a couple years.”

She also worked on the First Solar expansion in Lake Township.

As one of the few females on a construction crew, Mannon said she’s had a good experience.

“I think it came pretty naturally to me, just because my dad was the foreman when I was working with him, and I worked with a lot of the guys. The guys that are all foremen now were in the crew that I worked with,” she said. “Everybody kind of took me in and took care of me.”

Her brother, Derk Jackson II, is a boilermaker.

“I have support,” Mannon said.

An avid sports fan, Mannon spends her time off watching her kids play football, basketball and baseball. She likes to watch professional football and baseball, including the Detroit Tigers.

Her hardhat is decorated with stickers, including the Tigers, her gym and Rosie the Riveter.

When she was a Lake student, she was playing sports — all the time.

“I’m in the athletic hall of fame. That’s pretty cool,” Mannon said, adding that she played volleyball and basketball and ran track.

“I tried to play softball, but back then they wouldn’t let you do two sports (in one season).”

Besides sports, her best memory of attending Lake Elementary was eating square pizzas on Fridays for lunch.

A favorite part of Mannon’s job is seeing the end product — something she’ll get to do a lot when the $36 million Lake Elementary opens in fall 2024.

“And knowing that I had a hand in it.”