Memorial Service for Janette Stoltzfus
Saturday, January 16, 2016 • 1:30 p.m.• Newberg Friends Church
Tribute to (Mary) Janette Marner Gerig Stoltzfus — by Paul Stoltzfus
Janette and I met on a blind date while she was teaching in a parochial school in Delaware. I was in college in Virginia. Soon after we met, she moved back to her home in Oregon, and I continued my studies. During the next two years, she introduced me to the Northwest, where we rode ATVs, hiked mountain trails, shed for trout, and watched sunsets at the coast. I had never before experienced such a strong beauty in nature and in a woman. Her visits to the farm on the East Coast included riding horses, shooting guns, feeding baby calves, milking cows, and butchering beef. I’d never seen a ‘lady’ get so dirty and get such a kick out of it. She made dinner for our family and held her own with my four brothers. My parents loved this girl from Oregon and watched her in amaze- ment because she could do so many things.
Little did we know we had met at the mid-point of her life. She had spent her first 26 years at home with her parents and her two brothers. She completed a year of nurses training, studied at Rosedale Bible College, and decided to teach high school. Her students adored her.
She spent the second half of her life with me. After we married in June 1989, we lived on the family farm for a year and then drove across country to Oregon. We enrolled at George Fox University, discovered Newberg Friends Church, and made life-long friends.
Our first daughter, Melissa, was born in February 1991. By the end of graduate school, we added three more children to our family: Hans, Micah, and Rebekah. Our lives were wonderfully full and rich with many friends, shared camping experiences, going to church, and exploring the West Coast and the East Coast. Janette loved traveling and family vacations and did most of the preparation for them. Many times, I met Janette and the kids after work, enroute to the airport. Other times I came home from work in time to switch into the Suburban, which was already hitched to the trailer, loaded with food, bikes, canoe and all the supplies needed for the weekend or a ten-day outing.
Janette’s energy was boundless and joyful. She kept a full garden, preserved anything she could put in a jar, and taught others how to can tomato juice, pizza sauce, salsa, jams, and tuna. She trimmed our trees and berries and she managed our small beef herd and other animals. She oversaw the building of our country home. She managed our Black Butte house, a place where the basis of deep friendships and family bonding were formed. She never tired of morning walks, hot tubbing in the snow, and reading beside the hearth.
Back home, Janette entertained people throughout the week and on weekends She was deeply invested in our children’s private education, and spent nearly two decades organizing events, preparing food, and driving kids everywhere. She loved the days on the road with the Veritas Concert Choir. She was an “adopted mom” to many of the students.
Seventeen years into our marriage, Janette was diagnosed with cancer, and the initial prognosis was not good. We were suddenly aware that our life together was about to change dramatically. But, by God’s mercy, the prayers of our people, and elective treatment, Janette continued onward. The cancer waxed and waned and never entirely went away, despite nine years of radiations, surgeries, medications, and endless consultations with doctors.
Janette determined her life would not be defined by this disease. She quit talking about cancer, quietly went to treatments on her own, and pursued life with renewed intention. Nearly everyone, except her closest friends, thought the disease had gone into remission. In the meantime, she kept a balance of home and the community. She always had time for our children at home and she accompanied them in their school and sports activities. She was readily available to anyone else who needed help with a project.
Her kitchen was often crowded with food and supplies, yet somehow, in the midst of it all, she’d pull out an amazing new dish just in time for dinner. It seemed like we never got the same meal twice. Dinner times were happy a airs and our lengthy meal times formed the bond of our marriage and the joy of our home.
Janette’s day was structured around morning prayers and evening meals. Between those anchors she kept up a full range of activities in the community. She reserved Sundays exclusively as a time to worship, be with her family, and rest up for the week. Often we’d end our Sundays by Skyping with the kids who were away at college.
My wife loved friendships and spontaneity and a beautiful home. She loved working with me and usually showed up to help out bucking hay or running the equipment or bringing out something for me to eat or drink. She maintained high expectations for strong character and good manners in the children. Her faith was built from reading the Scriptures and from prayer. One of her greatest inspirations came from a group of women who met regularly to study the Scriptures and pray for each other and their families. She embraced and lived out a robust orthodox faith. She believed Truth could be known and lived out in practical ways.
The year of her passing was her most active and ful lling year of life. Despite an uptick in cancer ac- tivity, Janette did not appear to worry as she planned graduation parties for Micah, Hans, and Melissa, and helped plan Melissa’s wedding. She found great joy in a Christ-centered wedding, which was to her, the pinnacle of beauty, meaning, community, and good food. She loved her new son-in-law, Paul.
Several weeks after the wedding, Janette started chemotherapy. In early fall, she rallied enough to get Micah settled in at Biola University, went to Missouri for Melissa and Paul’s wedding reception, and spent several weekends at the Black Butte Ranch.
Janette hugged, kissed, and prayed for us as we started our day. As she got weaker, she never complained and remained optimistic. We did, at some point, realize we were in the hands of our loving Father, and only a miracle could save her life.
Thanksgiving Day was her last day of consciousness when the house was filled with food, music, extended family, and little kids. Outside the day was cold and sunny. Inside, there was a roaring fire, noise, laughter, and games. We were all in the “great room” she had designed to be the center of our home—a powerful testimony of a life well lived.
Our family’s sense of grief has cut to the very core of our being. This parting is painful beyond belief, and the future is uncharted. We’ve known for a very long time she embodied the soul of our family. Yet we realize we’ve been wonderfully blessed to have lived with such a gentle and strong woman who instinctively knew how to create a beautiful home, nurture a close-knit family, and support her man. Our children know their mother continues to live on in each one of them through memories of her generosity, her love for Christ, and the Word. We are strangely at peace with our world and in our faith.
And we know Janette is in the presence of Jesus where she is doing all the things she loved to do in this world, only so much better. Our love continues, for Janette, for Christ, and each other, and we will never forget the example of godly living she demonstrated so well. She has led the way to eternal life. And we will someday see her again and feel her warm embrace.