Remembering Jan

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Saying Goodbye

Eulogy for Jan Marie Jablonski

By Chris (with edits by Jude)

Day wears an outfit created by Jan as she reads the eulogy.


Click to hear Day...

Jan Marie was born in the summer of 1955, the year the family moved to the big, cream-brick house on Lisbon Avenue in Milwaukee.  In all the early photographs of her, she was a sweet-faced girl with a fringe of black bangs and big round dark eyes.  Jan began to sketch at a young age, drawing everything she saw.  Her sketch books and pencils became part of her every day life; she brought them along on every vacation, family outings or even an afternoon in the park.  But this was just the beginning of Jan’s growth into a remarkable and versatile creative talent.

Jan’s talent was manifold; she was adept a variety of expressions: 

  • Oil and acrylic painting on masonite, canvas, walls, and furnishings;
  • Sculpting;
  • Woodcarving in 3-dimensions and flat friezes;
  • Dolls made of wood and papier mache complete with carefully designed and historically correct wardrobes;
  • Miniature houses -- the tiny families in residence – decorated with handmade furniture, carefully wallpapered, and wired with working lights;
  • Fine-crafted dioramas of fantastical scenes;
  • Designing and sewing stage theater costumes and painting massive canvas backdrops in rich colors applied with a sure hand and keen eye;
  • Clothing design that utilized often wild mixes of fabrics and prints that somehow fell together perfectly in her hands;
  • Elaborate knitted sweaters designed on the fly without patterns;
  • Ceramics of whimsical shape and color;
  • Intricate jewelry made with a variety of stones, beans, and wire;
  • Children’s book illustration in graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor . . .

. . . all of these were the activities of her daily life.

For years she drove a cranberry-colored Plymouth Horizon that she had decorated with an oval picture of the Mona Lisa along side curlicued gold paint spelling out the words “Buy Real Art.”  Jan did not simply do art, she lived art every minute.

To follow this life dream, she moved to Door County soon after graduating with honors from UWM with a degree in fine arts.  She had been taking college level art courses while still at Pius XI High School.  She studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago - her focus on oil painting technique and portraiture.  During a semester in London she educated herself about the classic children’s book illustrators such as Beatrix Potter.

Although her family remained at the center of her life, she lived for her art at great cost to herself and often in difficult situations, sometimes, literally, as a starving artist.   Over the years, while waiting for her art works to sell or in between art shows she worked many jobs: respite care worker, short order cook, clothing designer and seamstress, day care worker, nursing home aide, and cashier/hostess/artist/framer in a variety of stores and galleries.   Most recently, she did a memorial pencil sketch of an American soldier for his buddies.  They were so moved by this tribute to their fallen friend that they adopted Jan as an honorary member 101st Airborne Division.

Her life was not always easy but Jan remained the kind, shy, lovely woman we all knew.  Her sense of humor was off-beat, whimsical and dry. She could make us laugh so hard telling jokes and always forgetting the punchline.  At Pipka’s, she would come to work dressed as an elf right down to the pointy shoes and throw candy to the kids dressed as Santa in the Fall Fest parade.  She loved children and they loved her.  Perhaps it was her child-like heart they recognized.  Jan once told her sister Chris she thought she was given the gift of mercy -- that is, a compassionate heart for everybody.  She was careful in her words and spoke always kindly about others.

Perhaps from the viewpoint of the commercial world, Jan was not successful as an artist. She did not become a famous portrait painter.  Much of her art was never sold and was put into storage.  But hers was a life of bravery, of courage to live one’s dream, not always graciously or smoothly, often alone, but always with dedication and kindness to others.   She will always be our beautiful Jan and the world will not be as bright now that she has left us.

Eulogy for Jan Jablonski

By Jude

 Jude wrote:

We lost a sister/daughter/aunt/sister-in-law who was remarkably and versatilely (word??) talented. She dressed with a unique flair and style. Her humor was off-beat, whimsical, dry, and she could never remember the punchline to a joke! She confused us with her shyness and stubbornness and she entertained us with her creations. She knitted and sewed gorgeous stuff without patterns. She made all those intricate and detailed toy houses and dioramas. She insisted on living for her art at great cost. Some of us knew her better than others of us did but we all feel her loss.

As with Paul, we all helped her in some way to reach her final time in peace and surrounded by love. Thank you; thank yourselves.


Saints Peter and Paul Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A Mass of Resurrection for Jan was held at Saints Peter & Paul Church in Milwaukee, 28 April 2008. Jude's describes Jan's funeral service as it happened...

The church was decorated with all the floral arrangements that had been sent by friends and family. A small table was set in the front of the church. On it were placed the simple wooden box containing Jan's ashes (which was draped with a crocheted lace doily and decorated with a single ceramic pink heart that Jan had made), a bouquet of pink roses, two photographs of Jan, and a bundle of her paintbrushes tied with a band of narrow leather. Two more vases of flowers stood on the floor in front of the table.
The service was low key and kind. The celebrant, Fr. Mike Michalski, though he'd never met Jan, did a good job of envisioning her! As it happens, Jan had done restoration work on the church's Stations of the Cross and two of their large religious statues, so Jan was very much present.

Monica, Lou/Bill, Day and others did a splendid job of setting up a gallery display of Jan's art work in the church's nursery classroom. The art ranged from the large oil painting of Mom's one-room school house to many ink and pencil and pastel drawings to a small doll with its entire hand-sewn wardrobe! The back drop for the display was a mural on the wall of the nursery for the children which included a portrait of our brother Paul at age 4 (wearing his favorite striped shirt!!). There were also two posters [1] [2] of photos of Jan which made her seem very present to us all.

A buffet dinner of sandwiches and vegies and some double-chocolate brownies with coffee and lemonade was served and friends and family had a good time chatting and reconnecting. Afterwards, family and a few friends met up again at 8447/Marion's for more conversation, tea, and just good-time hanging out.

Today (Tuesday) Ron, Greg and Lou/Bill are heading up to Jan's Door County apartment to organize her furniture for eventual giving away and her artwork which will be sorted and decided upon. Chris has been spearheading that project informationally. [Click to go to a large web-collection of Jan's works.]

We know not everyone could be there who wanted to be, but we know all were with us in spirit.

Just a few of Jan's many works were on display at Sts. Peter & Paul. Click on an artwork to see a larger view...

St. Mary of the Lake Church (Stella Maris Parish), Bailey's Harbor, Wisconsin

On 28 June, we celebrated Jan in a remembrance service in Door County, at St. Mary of The Lake Church and nearby cemetery .

(above) Jeanne and David Aurelius created a beautiful ceramic urn for Jan's ashes. (Roll your mouse over to see both sides...)

(right) Jan painted this large ethereal Madonna; her gift graced our lunch in the church basement. "Stella Maris" (Star of the Sea) is one of Mary's most ancient titles.

Mom and Dave gently cleared the grave and placed the urn ~~ Peter placed a single rose upon it while Jude sang.

Bill played the pipes. Listen here for Amazing Grace and Flowers of the Forest.

Jude joined us from afar. Her lament for Jan, recorded the day before, played on a speaker. Listen here...

A Water Over Stone

For sad I was
and sore I was
and lonely to the bone.
A green-a-grass, a grey-a-grass
a water over stone.

Oh lay a rose upon a rose
and take away this load.

Jan has a beautiful, peaceful view over the Door County landscape and skies that she loved.

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