Janis was a native Coloradoan, born in the Loveland Hospital just around the corner from her parent’s house on April 26th, 1956 – one of five Cushing kids all with birthdays within 31 days of each other. (Different years, of course.) Being the first girl in the family, she became the little doll for Stan and Ron to play with, and later, became the second mother to Lisa and Roger who made all the kids play nice together. (“Fight nice! Don’t fight!” she said.) She was the peacemaker, always acting with love and compromise; she was the caretaker, always showing empathy and compassion – both for her family & friends and for complete strangers. She will be missed by all who knew her.
Janis was a petite and demure redhead, the runt of the litter in stature. But she always stood her ground – stubborn as the rest of her Taurus & Aries siblings – and didn’t take any guff from 3 rowdy brothers and a very confident younger sister. Her Dad, Art, used to say, “There was a little girl / Who had a little curl / Right in the middle of her forehead / And when she was good / She was very, very good / But when she was bad, she was horrid!” In her adult years she stood up for kids who couldn’t stick up for themselves. She adopted the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund as her charity of choice and worked tirelessly to collect donations for this worthy cause. She finagled matching funds from her employer, the Pioneer Seed Company, so that over the years, Janis collected well over $100,000 in donations for the JDRF. Ironically, after working so hard to help find a cure for this disease of the pancreas, her own pancreas succumbed to cancer. Though she fought it bravely, Janis couldn’t win this fight. For her courage and compassion, she was respected and loved by all her friends, co-workers and family.
Janis was a picky eater who , when told to clean her plate, once flung her hated green beans under the counter with such vehemence that they stuck to the wall behind the breakfast bar, only to be found there by Mom days later. Her sweet innocence made it hard to disbelieve her when she said she didn’t know how those beans got plastered on the paneling! Her culinary tastes changed over time though and she grew her own beans (and tomatoes and corn and okra) later in life and I’m pretty sure that none of those garden delights ever ended up staining her kitchen walls. She cooked every meal for her husband Ron, who proudly (and cleverly) claimed that he couldn’t even make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich by himself. I suspect it wasn’t so much “couldn’t” as it was “why should I cook when I have my own June Cleaver to cook for me?” In many ways, she nourished everyone around her.
Janis loved to play dress up and when she got tired of dolling herself up, she’d play with her dolls. When dolling up her dolls got old, she’d put her beautician skills to the test and practice on Art or Stan or Ron – curling their hair and clipping bows and ribbons into the curls to make them pretty. The boys would grudgingly put up with these antics but no pictures were allowed. (Unfortunately, it turns out, now that we’re all grown up, we have the sense of humor and fun that would make those pictures priceless.) She had a great sense of humor – it would be hard not to enjoy a good laugh if you grew up in the Cushing household, a family of wise-crackers and jokers. She used to beg her brother, Ron, to say “parlez vous” – a silly game that irritated everyone not in on the joke, but would send Janis and Lisa into gales of laughter that only ended when someone finally begged, “Stop, before I wet my pants!” Her friends and family loved to get her emails – often with a cartoon or funny picture; often with a long story, punctuated with “awwws” and “sighs” (but NEVER with a capital letter) that would both crack them up and make them shed a tear. She loved to laugh and make others laugh.
Janis went to Platte Valley Academy in Nebraska, and then to Oak Park Academy in Iowa before deciding that boarding school was boring and that living at home was a better option. So, she returned to Loveland and graduated from Campion Academy in 1974. She then went on to nursing school in Iowa to become an RN, a truly fitting vocation for someone who loves to care for others. The Iowa connection must have had some magic for her because she eventually married an Iowan haberdasher, Ron Foote. Janis loved Ron more than anything else in the world and they enjoyed 23 years of marital bliss. You could see their love in the way they held hands and kissed – not caring if someone was looking. They were the perfect couple with the same likes and dislikes, habits and foibles; soul-mates in the truest sense. He liked to be doted on and taken care of, and she lived to do just that. He is lost without her and the rest of us have “holes in our hearts the size of Janis,” as one of her Facebook friends put it.
Janis was just like her own Mom, Sarah – kind, generous, helpful and loving. She was never able to have her own children, but she would’ve made a great mom. Instead, she practiced her mothering skills on her siblings and her husband and her nieces and nephews and her pen pals. To her nieces (Chelsa, Bryn, Mindy, Kendra, Briana & Ksana) and nephews (Chance & Christian) she was always known as Aunt Buggie. To her pen pals – which hailed from literally around the world – she was one of the “Twisted Sisters,” Stephen King fans who conducted book reviews through e-mails and traveled on pilgrimages to Maine to visit the real-life settings of his not-so-real-life novels (and secure an autograph or two.) Connecting with her friends and family was very important to Janis, especially since she lived 2 states away from the old family homestead. She was loved by everyone who knew her, and especially by Ron.
Though physically Janis had a weak heart, her emotional and loving heart was queen sized and beat strongly in all she did. She gave of herself to her husband, treating him like her king and as her best friend; she gave of herself to her family, always helping, always interested in their well-being; she gave of herself to her friends, her co-workers, and her numerous pen pals around the world; and she gave of herself to the kids she never had – her nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews, and to the nameless kids who suffer from diabetes. This Fall her family will honor her charitable passion by joining as a team in the annual JDRF benefit walk. They will keep her spirit alive and know that she walks with them in their hearts.
Janis liked motorcycles and small foreign cars driven smartly and stylishly in road rallies on back roads between the high cornfields of her adopted state. She loved to garden in the sweltering Iowa sun and sent us the most amazing vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet onions and fiery-hot jalapenos through the mail. She loved pigs and had dozens (if not scores) of figurines and stuffed piglets. Her first and favorite pig was named Charles (Ron’s middle name) – a gift from Ron on their first date. She loved to sit by the pool and soak up the sun. She loved reading and eschewed commercial, network TV. I believe that her imagination was far more entertaining than anything that could come out of Hollywood. But, she loved nature and nature shows, so she would often call Dad in the evening to tell him, “Quick, turn on your TV,” to some channel that was showing wildebeests getting chased by lions, or butterflies migrating across the hemispheres. Janis loved Colorado and the mountains, and told me that she always felt closer to God when she could take a drive “uppa-mountain”. When she came to Colorado to visit, she would always set aside time to drive “uppa-mountain,” whether it was to see the wildflowers or the waterfalls or the Aspen or the snow. Janis always felt at home in the mountains – they reenergized her – and they will be her final resting place when her family scatters her ashes in her favorite hiking spot. Her memory will always bring us thoughts of her love and spirituality.