Janice Ruth (Smith) Witherspoon was born on September 12, 1927, in Detroit, Michigan. She died peacefully in Deerfield, Illinois, on February 15, 2022.
Janice was the adored only child of Carola Fern (Fritz) Smith and Edgar Harold Smith. Edgar was a WWI veteran who became a high school chemistry teacher and assistant principal. Carola was a history teacher prior to marriage, and was an active volunteer thereafter. The household also included her mother’s younger sister, Mildred Grace Fritz. Mildred was a social worker who came to stay with Carola and Ed for two weeks, then stayed sixty-two years.
Janice had a keen wit and enjoyed a good laugh, at her own expense if necessary. She was a stunning beauty her entire life and was invariably impeccably dressed.
Frequently in search of reliable information, Janice read constantly and especially loved maps. She read the daily newspaper with scissors in her hand. Janice gave unabridged dictionaries, atlases and almanacs as holiday gifts.
Janice began accumulating academic honors as an elementary school student and was a Detroit city-wide champion speller. At Thomas M. Cooley High School, Janice earned all the academic awards available, and was the War Editor of the Cooley Cardinal. The story goes that their eleventh grade English teacher seated Janice next to John Homer Witherspoon, Jr., in order to inspire him to be more serious in class. The result was consequential, if not always serious, for Janice and John.
After high school, John enlisted in the Navy and Janice studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1948 and was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key. While teaching junior high school, Janice earned a master’s degree in business education from Wayne State University, in Detroit.
John and Janice married in 1950. Upon John’s graduation from the University of Michigan Law School in 1952, the young couple moved to Joplin, Missouri, the first of several moves in furtherance of John’s law career. Their daughter, Kathleen Mary, was born in Joplin on Mother’s Day in 1953. Their son, John Christopher “Chris,” was born in Detroit in 1956.
After the family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1962, Janice began her library volunteer career, typing catalog cards for the Abington library. When they moved to West Simsbury, Connecticut, in 1978, she ran a library used book sale at which 15,000 books were sold. In both locales, Janice and John were known as skilled and enthusiastic bridge players.
In 1983, while living in Connecticut, John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in 1986.
Janice and Chris moved to Northbrook, Illinois, in 1990. They owned and ran the Little Professor Book Center, in Glenview, for five years. Kathleen, her husband, Gerry, and their three sons lived in Wilmette. Janice’s grandsons delighted in the book store, which they never left empty handed.
Combining passions for bridge and libraries, Janice and her friend, Mary Dorsher, ran duplicate bridge at the Northbrook Public Library. Janice served as a volunteer tutor for English language learners, also at the Northbrook library. Janice became the secretary and then president of the board of the condominium association at The Commons in Northbrook. For many years, Janice served as an election judge.
Memory loss did not dim Janice’s love for her family. She will be remembered with love by her son, Chris; daughter, Kathleen Albanese; son-in-law Gerard Albanese,Jr.; grandsons Christopher James Albanese, Anthony Thomas Albanese, and John Gerard Albanese; John’s wife Maren Rebecca Hulden, and great grandsons August Gerard and Julian Russell Hulden Albanese.
The family would like to thank medical advocate, caregiver and friend, Simone Lecat Gould, for her tireless efforts on behalf of Janice in the last years of her life. The family is also grateful for the care and support provided by the staff of North Shore Place in Northbrook.
Janice’s cremains will rest with John in Detroit. While there will not be a funeral, all are invited to take a moment to honor the life and values of Janice Witherspoon: Support your local library. Vote as if the fate of the nation depends upon your vote. Read.
Arrangements entrusted to Chicagoland Cremation Options of Schiller Park, Illinois.
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