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Janet L. (Johnson) Thomas

May 30, 1938 ~ December 31, 2018 (age 80)

Janet L. (Johnson) Thomas, 80, of Coopersburg passed away December 31, 2018 at The Laurels in Sellersville surrounded by her family. Born May 30, 1938 in Uniontown, PA, she was the daughter of the late William A. and Anna E. (Wilcox) Johnson. Janet earned a BA in Art Education from IUP and later, an AA in Hotel and Restaurant Management from LCCC. She held many positions in life that highlighted her wit, creativity and compassion including teaching art, social work at the Philadelphia State Hospital, sign painting, and volunteer work for the Adult Literacy Center. She enjoyed picking up new interests such as chair caning, cake decorating and auto body repair, mastering them and moving on to something new. One of her greatest pleasures was sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while laughing with family and friends. Janet will be greatly missed by her loving husband, George V; son, George VI; daughter, Elizabeth; sisters Doris Wallace and Ruth Peters. She was predeceased by sisters Nora Brown and Margaret Riddell and brother William Johnson. As per her request, there will be no services. Online condolences may be submitted at www.crstrunk.com. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Janet was born in Uniontown, PA, the youngest of 6 siblings.  She has four sisters (Norah, Doris, Ruth, and Maggie) and an older brother, Bill.  Of her siblings, Doris and Ruth are both still living. Doris has late stage dementia and lives in Chicago with her daughter, Jennie.  Ruth has early to mid-stage dementia and resides in an assistive living apartment in Lititz, PA.  At the time of her birth, Janet's father was 53, her mother 42, and Janet's oldest sister, Norah, was 19 years old. Janet's father was a very large, outspoken, and hardworking man who called attention to himself, and Janet's mother was a short, caring, and hardworking woman.  Both of Janet's parents were very honest and supportive of their children.  All of the children finished at the top or near the top of their high school class, and three of the women went on to college.  Janet majored in art education at Indiana University of PA and taught in several schools in the Pittsburgh and Lancaster areas as well as the Southern Lehigh Middle School.  While in high school, Janet took courses in shorthand and typing. These skills allowed her to work as a secretary through Manpower in a variety of positions in Pittsburgh, Washington, DC and Philadelphia.Janet has a dry and cutting sense of humor. She enjoys laughing and finding the humor in even the darkest of moments, though her empathy and compassion for the plights of others are great. Janet does not shy away from controversial topics. She has a strong appreciation for off-color humor and language.  One of her favorite phrases is “God save the Commonwealth!” Janet lived her life in an adventurous way.  She spent much of her 20s and early 30s seeking interesting people and diverse experiences.  Even in the throes of her dementia, she continues to have fond memories of the people she’s known over the years and the fun times they’ve shared together.Forty five years ago, when Janet met her husband, George, in Philadelphia, she was a social worker at the Philadelphia State Hospital.  She worked with a tight-knit group pioneering reintegrating patients into the community.  Janet was the community liaison person.  The group still meets on a regular basis. Janet met her husband, George, in 1971 at a self-hypnosis class she was hosting at her apartment in Center City Philadelphia.  They were married 9 months after meeting and moved to Coopersburg in 1973.  They had limited funds for purchasing a house, but Janet spotted a "fixer-upper" with potential in a brochure.  The house required massive renovations, which, because of limited funds, they did themselves.  Janet plastered, papered and painted several times over, as well as making all of the curtains.  Son George was 6 months old when they moved into their house in Coopersburg, and Elizabeth was born in 1975.  When Janet and George moved to Locust Valley, there was lot of interaction between neighbors, and they became friends with about two dozen families.  They exchanged visits, attended each other’s parties, and Janet became a member of an active card playing group of women.  It helped that many of the families had children about the same age of theirs.  Her most treasured friend in Locust Valley was her neighbor, John Wetzel. He was an older, rather eccentric artist who also fancied himself a writer. She started giving him rides to the store and he quickly became an important part of the family.  He had a quick wit and keen sense of humor that she greatly appreciated.  She cared for him through to the end of his life, arranging for nursing and hospice care, as he had no surviving family.  Janet still talks about him regularly and how much she misses him. Unfortunately, nearly all of those local families she was friends with have moved, and the new neighbors keep to themselves.  Janet didn't make many friends beyond the limits of her immediate community.  However, she kept active and engaged through jobs and volunteering in several organizations, taking academic classes and attending senior lectures at Penn State and Cedar Crest,   sponsoring exchange students, helping elderly and mentally challenged neighbors, helping friends of our children that needed the attention of a caring adult, and providing a steady supply of treats and conversation for neighborhood children.   Since moving to Coopersburg, Janet has been active in George's and Elizabeth's schools and served as PTA president for two years.  Janet received an award for increasing PTA membership by 200% during her first year in office.  She also raised money for Elizabeth's band at BECA by making and selling hoagies and helping with bingo and helped raise money for George to go to Russia with a school group during the early days of détente. Janet encouraged and supported both Elizabeth and George in pursuing different activities and arranged for tutors and counseling when needed.  Like her parents, Janet always encouraged George and Elizabeth to follow their dreams, and each has a wide range of interesting adventures.  In addition to supporting the children, home remodeling, housekeeping, and making delicious meals, Janet managed the family’s finances.  As a result of careful money management on a modest income, Janet was able to plan an interesting vacation every summer.  Janet and her family visited several sites in PA, made a few trips to the Atlantic shore and to Florida, including Disney World, Cape Kennedy, Saratoga, and other sites.  In addition, there were excursions to other states, Canada, Mexico, and England and Wales.   Janet has held a variety of jobs since moving to Coopersburg, including waitressing at the Sheraton Jetport, a couple of Denny's restaurants, and the Allentown Turnpike Travel Plaza.  She ran the hot dog cart at the Locust Valley Golf Club and made doughnuts at the Weiss Market.  Other jobs included working as an aide at the local nursing home and for the Lehigh County Visiting Nurses.  Janet volunteered in the Lehigh County program to teach reading to adults. Her activities included making signs for several Lehigh Valley Malls, making and decorating cakes, chair caning, and sewing quilts and Halloween costumes.  Janet even took an evening course in auto body repair.  She impressed her teacher and fellow students with her abilities for rebuilding heavily-rusted automobiles.  In her mid-fifties, Janet graduated with honors in the LCCC Hotel and Restaurant Administration program. One of Janet's projects was leading a successful campaign to disallow a developer from taking over the local golf course and, always a lifelong Republican, she switched parties and campaigned hard for Obama in 2008.  On a daily basis Janet read the newspaper front to back and worked all the crossword and word puzzles in it. Janet grew up attending a mainstream Baptist church, but she became disillusioned with Christian religions and rejected the concept of heaven, hell, and life after death.  While in Philadelphia, Janet became an active member of the Philadelphia Ethical Society.  Janet cultivated important friendships and experiences during this time that continue to inform her life to this day.  Janet believed George and Elizabeth should be exposed to organized religion, and she and her family became members of the Unitarian Church, Lutheran Church, and Moravian Church, in that order.  However, for the last 25 years, Janet has not been associated with any organized religion.  About 6 years ago, she was briefly an active member of the Lehigh Valley Humanists.  Although she is not religious and dislikes the ceremony of most church services, Janet does enjoy singing hymns.  It reminds her of time she spent with her mother throughout childhood.

 


Donations may be made to:

Alzheimer's Association Lehigh Valley Office
617A Main Street, Hellertown PA 18055


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