My Mother began telling me about you the summer before I enrolled in first grade at WLS. She was preparing me for what she knew would be “the best time of my life” at the place where I would meet the “best friends I would ever know.” She treasured her years with you, and these reunions were a sacred event she wouldn’t dream of missing. I doubt she expected not to make it here with you tonight; the night of your 50th.
When she met many of you in 1946, back when you were known as either a red or a gray squirrel at the stone elementary building, you were some of the first friends she knew. Growing up on Couchman road, out in the country, as the youngest of seven children who were many years her senior, there were few chances for play dates. No car was available, yet she did have her horse, Spring Design, and a brand new saddle that came for her 16th birthday from Aunt Edith. She fell and broke both arms during a race, and undaunted, got back in the saddle again.
When you were the top of the heap at WLHS, the high school had recently opened its new wing, Elvis Presley served in Germany for the Army, Great Balls of Fire and Tequila were number one on the charts. Color TV sets were the rage, and girls still wore dresses, below the knee, to school everyday. High school trips were fashionable. How many of you remember that Janet developed her aversion to cottage cheese during your trip to New York City? And by the way, which one of you wrote in her class autograph book, “I like it when you wear low-cut dresses… just kidding,”?
Your high school science teacher, Mr. L., was still the head of the Bunsen burners when I arrived in the classroom some 20 years later. So both of our generations knew the best way to get out of science any day was to get Mr. L. to talk about his good ol’ days in the military.
The Latin teacher, Mr. W., became a life-long family friend, dropping by every so often around 3 o’clock in the afternoon to visit, with candy and black zebra chewing gum for my brother and me. He sent her anniversary cards, birthday cards, and as he got older and a little senile, sent her an anniversary card on the day her divorce was final.
She kept track of each one of you over the years. In the back cover of one of her senior year albums, she recorded the dates of your weddings, and when your first children arrived. A newspaper clipping I found shows Mrs. K holding the first citizens of 1960 in the county: twin boys.
She married Roy, from Westfall, soon after graduation. She never wanted to move far from this village that sits in the valley. Her two children, came in 1962 and 1964. When she found the house at 225 White street in 1967, she never had a desire to live any other place, and never did. She returned to WLS in 1969, when she was the home room mom to the second grade class for Mrs. D. She arrived again for her son’s broken arm on the playground in 1970, along with Mrs. S. and Mrs. Y. She also popped in on numerous occasions to deliver holiday cookies for class parties.
Although she took piano lessons throughout her school years, and played the clarinet in the band, she later learned to play the organ, and was one of the regular organists at the the church for many years. Together with Roy, they planned many
of the church’s youth group outings, and she also directed some of the church’s Christmas plays.
Janet was always an avid gardener. Some years she planted food, and spent countless hours in the August heat canning beans and corn. Some years she simply grew flowers. I hope you had a chance to see her roses; they were spectacular. She filled her yard with the trees she planted to memorialize significant events in her children’s lives.
If you stopped by to visit her at 225 White Street, you would have found needlecraft magazines on her book shelves beside her Kinsey Millhone mysteries and her other favorite reads, historical novels. Baskets with balls of yarn and needles sat on the floor containing her latest “in-process” creations. This was before she had discovered her life-long passion, quilting. In her kitchen, you would have found her collection of roosters, hand-written recipe cards, and the computer loaded with the on-line scrabble games she played with her son. Her screen saver was the ever evolving collection of pictures of the most treasured souls in her life, her six grandsons.
Alan gave her two grandsons. Many years later, Susie gave her four more grandsons. She was present for the birth of every one of her grandchildren. She rocked them to sleep when they were teething, challenged them in checkers, taught them to fish, and sewed super hero capes and costumes for them to play with. And, she always showed up with candy at their doorstep.
In 1993, Janet discovered quilting. Once her passion kicked in, Janet put her crochet books, her knitting books, and her sewing patterns away for good. She once told me that “quilting gave her more satisfaction than anything she had ever done in her life.” Now, her quilts cover her loved ones at night, one of the few tangible remnants we have left of her love.
She traveled to Alaska with her family, and even on that trip, she ran into someone from WL, as it’s still such a small world. Even a broken pelvis didn’t stop her from taking her “dream trip of a lifetime” to the Grand Canyon.
I’m sure, as a Mother, she kept some of her “best stories” from her daughter, as these are the private, and the most fun, shenanigans, that you don’t dare share with your children. I’m sure I only know half of your stories. Still, I want to thank you for sharing, and creating, some of the greatest moments my Mom ever knew. And yes, I miss her too.