Jane Heins Escher was born in Sanford, North Carolina, and graduated from Sanford High School in 1949. She then worked for a year at a telephone company until she was old enough to join the U.S. Navy.
Escher enlisted in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1951 and went through four months of basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois. She was then transferred to San Diego, California, for a year and a half of service school training with the security group at the Naval Training Center. In 1953 she reported for cryptographer duties in Washington, D.C. The same year she met her husband, Don Kowell, in her department and they were wed in October. Escher was discharged from the navy due to pregnancy in late 1953.
After discharge, Escher traveled with her husband as he continued his military career. She left his station in Puerto Rico in 1955 and returned to the United States to care for her father. While her husband was in the navy Escher lived in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Scotland; and Chesapeake, Virginia. She raised two daughters. Don Kowell retired from the navy in 1969 and passed away in 1980. In 1987 Jane Escher married John Escher, a former Marine.