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Social justice champion Dorothy Janes dies at 101

A champion of social justice and tireless volunteer in the Brainerd lakes area died Saturday. Dorothy Wick Janes was 101. (Steve Kohls - Brainerd Dispatch)1 / 2
Dorothy Janes2 / 2

A champion of social justice and tireless volunteer in the Brainerd lakes area died Saturday.

Dorothy Wick Janes was 101.

Born Feb. 12, 1913, she shared a birthday with her twin brother Tom and Abraham Lincoln. Janes died Saturday afternoon in her apartment in Coventry Senior Living in Mahtomedi. Formerly she made her home in East Gull Lake.

Last year as she approached the century mark, she had clear memories and remained an engaging conversationalist. She was an athlete, a diver, swimmer and track runner. She excelled as a student and was valedictorian at Jackson High School on Minnesota's southern edge. Born at a time when future options could be limiting for women and before they could vote, Janes was devoted to civics and the privileges and obligations of citizenship. Gaining free tuition to college because of her outstanding high school record, Janes chose Macalester College in St. Paul where she majored in economics. Her leadership qualities were apparent early. She was president of the Aquatic League at Macalester College, worked for her room and board and was active on the debate team.

In a 2013 Dispatch interview as Janes was days away from turning 100, she noted her dreams as a young woman were to go into business with a large company. But in those days women had two main career choices - teaching or nursing. A letter her college professor sent out to major companies apparently was not enough to break those barriers. Graduating cum laude in 1935, she took a teaching job at Cambridge High School. She put her energies into teaching business training, debate and bookkeeping and as a Girl Scout leader encouraging the next generation of young women.

She married Bob Janes on June 14, 1938 and with her marriage was required to quit teaching. She raised five children and managed moves from California to Chicago to Oklahoma. Her family reported she believed in lifelong learning and enjoyed nature, history and politics. She had a passion for art, music and nature. Her daughter reported Janes had a common refrain to leave things better than they were found.

When she moved to Oklahoma where the city of Stillwater was still actively segregated, Janes and another professor's wife established a neighborhood preschool in the city's black section in South Stillwater. She was invited to serve on the city's housing commission by Stillwater's mayor and worked to create decent housing.

She was active wherever she lived, serving as president of parent teacher associations and becoming an office-holder with the League of Women Voters. Her father Peter was born in Norway and her mother Maude grew up in the Brainerd lakes area. Janes remained active throughout her life. At age 80, she became a Kinship Partner. In 2012, when she was 99 Janes was honored by the Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters.

She credited her longevity to walking a mile a day, staying active and being involved, along with avoiding overeating. She lived on her own with the assistance of a home aide and family support as she surpassed 100 years of age. She donated her body to the University of Minnesota Medical School.

She was involved in many organizations, including First Congregational Church, Heartland Symphony Board, Kinship Partners, Brainerd Garden Club, Nisswa Garden Club, Nisswa Women's Club, and Heartland Animal Rescue Team.

A memorial service to celebrate her life will be 11 a.m. July 26 at First Congregational Church UCC, Brainerd.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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