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A Remarkable Woman

Remembering the gifted Janet Wentworth
Janet Wentworth
Janet Wentworth

Friends of the late Janet Wentworth will gather from noon until 2 pm Sunday, April 6, at the Eugene Family YMCA, 2055 Patterson Street. All are welcome to that time of remembering Janet who died on March 6, 2014, a month shy of the 69th anniversary of her birth.

That gathering will be at the Y because every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, in rain or shine, except when surgeries forced her to stay abed, Janet wheeled her way to U-Can-Gym, the Y’s exercise program for persons with disabilities. Exercise was important to her, as were those who exercised with her. 

She moved to Eugene from Los Angeles with her mother, Edna, in 1988 to work in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity at the University of Oregon. Later Janet served as the UO’s ombuds officer. And always, she was a champion for those with disabilities. 

While in Los Angeles, she worked in Mayor Tom Bradley’s office on disability issues; attended UCLA; was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; and became the contestant from California in the Miss Wheelchair America Pageant.

At the gathering at the Y, there is certain to be much talk about Janet’s gifts as a gardener, and stories about her many dogs and cats. A number of those pets had disabilities, and might be categorized by others as unadoptable. Having been adopted herself, Janet was sensitive to the difference adoption can make in a life.

Also important to her was the Oregon State Library’s Books on Tape program which enabled her, despite her vision limitations, to be a “well-read” conversationalist. 

Nor did her poor eyesight deny her the joy of being a painter. Many of her paintings appear to have been inspired by Monet. She was proud of them and talked often about one that hangs in Congressman Peter DeFazio’s office. She hoped that that painting would promote interest in art shows featuring works of artists with disabilities. Anyone who has a Janet painting who wishes to show it to others is encouraged to bring it to the gathering at the Y. 

Also important and absolutely essential to Janet were her caregivers. After her mother’s death, a number of caregivers provided sensitive and round-the-clock attention. Among them was Michelle Kalcich, who cared for Janet for about six years. During the last years of her life, Adrienne Platt was Janet’s caregiver. She was extremely thankful for their help. 

There will be an announcement at that gathering of the establishment of a scholarship in Janet’s name for those who want to participate in the Y’s U-Can-Gym program but are of low income. The Janet Wentworth Scholarship was not Janet’s idea, but close friends say it would be a fitting memorial and are absolutely certain she would approve.