Obituary for Rebecca Janenda
Rebecca Drew Janenda, wife and 53-year partner of Joel E. Janenda, died September 4th after a courageous battle with cancer. Becky was a strong, thoughtful and intelligent woman and always proud of her Maine roots. She was born in Old Town in October 1942 to Dana Drew of Patten and Ruth Wooster Drew of Old Town and Franklin. She grew up and lived her whole life as part of a large, extended Wooster family and loved visiting with and cooking for her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
With a Dad who was an educator and school administrator, Becky, her older sister Sue, and younger brother Tom lived and went to school in several communities in Maine and Massachusetts. An excellent student, she attended and graduated from the University of Connecticut where she met Joel. They were married in June 1964.
Becky worked as a social studies teacher in the Glastonbury, Connecticut public school system to put Joel through the University of Connecticut Law School. After law school graduation, they decided to build their lives and become part of the community in Manchester. They raised two sons, John and Tom, for whom Becky was a constant source of love, affection, support, and encouragement.
Becky chose to give up work outside the home while the boys were young, but remained constantly involved as a volunteer in the Manchester and greater Hartford area. Among other things, she was actively involved with the League of Women Voters for whom she hosted a weekly cable television show where she interviewed political and community leaders on important issues of the day. She was also a lead organizer of the first two foreign exchange trips (Israel and West Berlin) organized as part of President Jimmy Carter’s “Friendship Force” effort to foster citizen diplomacy and peace. Because of her leadership and involvement, Becky was asked to serve as a member of the initial Leadership Greater Hartford organization in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Following the death of her Grandmother Sarah Wooster, Becky served 17 years as the President of the Wooster family corporation and worked closely with other family members to safeguard the family property on Taunton Bay in Hancock County, Maine for future generations.
As John and Tom approached college age, Becky went back to work outside the home. She took over the small business aspects of Joel’s law firm, which she managed very well for 25 years through their retirement in 2012. She was also an accomplished probate paralegal.
During recent years, in addition to managing the law firm, Becky spent 14 years serving in various leadership positions with the Auxiliary of the Manchester Memorial Hospital and the Board of Trustees of the Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN). During her tenure as President of the Auxiliary, the organization raised and contributed $500,000 to the hospital. After four years as an Ex-Officio member of the ECHN Board of Trustees, Becky was elected to the Board by her peers in 2005 and served ten additional years as Secretary of the Board, Chair of the Governance, Diversity, and Women’s Health Advisory Committees, and as a member of the Executive, Planning, Partnering, and Transaction committees.
In addition to this involvement and engagement professionally and in the community, it was the time, thoughtfulness and quiet acts of kindness, creativity and hospitality Becky loved to shower on her husband, children, friends, family, and a lifelong circle of friends known as the “Breakfast Club” that all who knew her remember most.
She was an exceptionally talented and creative cook who saw food and flavor as a way to make people and gatherings feel special. She put on nearly every holiday for both sides of Becky and Joel’s families for years. An invitation to one of her dinners “up at camp” on a Maine evening was often a highlight of the summer. Becky inherited her Mother, Ruth Drew’s indefatigable energy and creative ability. She was an excellent seamstress. She loved to arrange flowers for friends and family and annual ECHN gatherings. She created holiday displays, tables, wreaths, and decorations in various mediums that looked like magazine layouts. She had a great eye for antiques and knew how to refurbish and restore them.
Becky also had an incredible ability to listen, hear and remember how the people she loved were doing and what might either pick them up or make them smile. She loved to search high and low for special gifts for family and friends that often led people to say, “I can’t believe she remembered that.” And, when people had hard times or challenges – whether a tough first semester at college or a serious health issue, Becky would be a constant, often weekly source of quiet encouragement and thoughtfulness.
For these reasons and so many more, Becky will be deeply missed by her family, friends and community. She is survived by her husband, Joel; her son Tom; her son John and his wife Lisa, grandson Mason, and granddaughter Avery; her sister Sue and brother Tom; and over 100 family members on both the Janenda and Wooster side of the family. The Harry and Sarah Wooster Homestead Corporation that protects the Wooster family property is part of her legacy, as is the recently created Ruth’s Legacy trust that protects her mother Ruth’s property on Taunton Bay.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in her name to one of the following two organizations Becky actively supported in life: Friends of Taunton Bay which protects the health and integrity of the Taunton Bay ecosystem in Franklin, Maine (www.friendsoftauntonbay.org; P.O. Box 411, Hancock, Maine 04640; 207-422-6457) or the Meg Berte Owen Survivorship Fund which supports frontline research aimed at bettering the lives of cancer survivors (Check to “Memorial Sloan Kettering” with Becky’s name in the memo mailed to Jae Rindner, Office of Development, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 885 Second Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10017).
Visiting hours to celebrate Becky will be from 4:00 to 7:00 pm next Friday, September 22 at Tierney’s Funeral Home, 219 West Center Street, Manchester, CT. A memorial service to celebrate Becky’s life will be held at 11:00 am next Saturday, September 23rd at Center Congregational Church, 11 Center Street, Manchester, CT and will be followed by a luncheon gatherin