Early on the morning of June 3, surrounded by her family, Janet Watrous Woodard transitioned from this life to the next. She described her destination as a final shore where she would be finally immersed in the Love of all Love.
Jan believed in the transformative power of words. From an early age Jan was a writer. She was Editor in Chief of her high school paper, wrote countless articles for newspapers and magazines, and wrote for her denomination, the United Methodist Church, for ten years.
Not only did Jan tell her own story, she helped others tell theirs. She led and facilitated retreats, workshops, classes, and writing groups. Before she had children, Jan taught Social Studies at the Indiana Area Junior High School. Throughout her adult life Jan taught adult education classes at Grace United Methodist Church.
A life-long learner, Jan returned to IUP at 60 years of age to complete a Masters degree in Adult and Community Education. She then relished serving residents as the Activity Coordinator at a senior living facility, St. Andrew’s Village.
Three years after her retirement, Jan found a lump in her breast. She said it was devastating, reinvigorated her call to write. This led to her weekly column, “Texting Thru Cancer” later called “Texting Thru Recovery” published both in The Indiana Gazette and on her blog, janwoodard.com. Inspired by Saint Julian of Norwich (the first woman to publish a book in English) Jan closed each of her posts with the words, “All will be well.” Jan’s dream to publish a book is being realized in her forthcoming “Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing” (Upper Room Books, March 2021).
Jan used words to teach and heal. With extraordinary courage and vulnerability, she shared her journey, and her words were a balm to this aching world.
Jan not only told her story, she lived it. She insisted a life well lived is one where you look outside yourself and toward the needs of others. She did this her entire life.
Jan valued hospitality. Her faith taught her to welcome anyone longing for a sense of home. Holiday meals were often crowded with family, friends, international students, widows, neighbors, and anyone needing a place to belong. As co-founder of COURAGE and Cancer, Jan helped create a place where those impacted by cancer can share, grieve, and support one another. Jan and her husband embraced a family who relocated from Kenya, enfolding them in her presence and care. Jan was “Mom” for Elizabeth and Rafael, and a beloved Grandma to their children, Fiona, Melody, and Josiah. They loved each other fiercely.
A volunteer with the Refugee Working Group of Indiana County, Jan shared her passion for welcoming the stranger and working toward a more justice world. In earlier years, she volunteered with both jail and prison ministries, trusting the words of Jesus, “When you visit those in prison, you visit me.” Jan taught her children and grandchildren to care for all people with dignity, respect, and care.
Through her pilgrimage to the Iona Abbey of Scotland and classes in Spiritual Formation at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Jan’s faith was nourished and deepened. Her study of Celtic Christian spirituality provided an ancient language of faith that grounded her in a fresh way.
Jan took in the world with every fiber of her being. She loved the feel of searsucker and the soft fur of kittens. She loved the smell of fresh baked banana bread and the taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream. She loved to listen to music. Jan played the piano and often sang her children to sleep. She practiced gratitude for simple, everyday things, believing all of it was a gift.
Jan loved the outdoors. She would listen for birds singing at sunrise and exclaim wonder over a brilliant sunset. Jan spoke fondly of the hills of Ireland and Scotland. She enjoyed hiking with her children through Pennsylvania, New Zealand, and the mountains of Colorado. Jan believed that in and through the created world, we see the majesty of our Maker.
Jan loved water, from waterfalls and hot springs to rivers and lakes; Lake Wallenpaupack and Yellow Creek were among her favorite places in Pennsylvania. She loved kayaking and swimming and, when she was young, waterskiing. She especially loved reading in a canoe on lazy afternoons while her sweetheart fished.
There is not space or time to name all her accomplishments. Nor is there space to name everyone she loved. So many were precious to Jan, and she was beloved by so many. One thing she cherished most was her family: Her beloved children Brett, Tara, and Julie; Her sweet Jim, husband and partner of over 50 years; Her treasured grandchildren, Josiah and Eli; Her siblings, Marilyn, George and Carol; Her sons-in-law, Derek and Bob; and the entire Kalu family.
From the beginning of her battle with breast cancer, Jan’s goal was to be truthful about her own experience, and to use it to inspire and comfort others. Jan was not fond of trite cliches or false comforts. She bravely confronted the truth that everything would not end happily ever after. Still, she had hope. Though she would miss those she leaves behind, she insisted that she was not afraid of death. She knew there was more that lies beyond this earthly life.
Now Jan is safely on the other side of the final shore, embraced in the arms of her Savior, still reminding us that come what may, All will be well.
In lieu of flowers, the Woodard family requests that donations be made to two local organizations that were important to Jan; Family Promise and The Chevy Chase Community Center.
A public celebration of her life and legacy will be held at a future date.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Janet Woodard, please visit our floral store.