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Burned woman dies, is recalled as caring

May 16, 2004|By WANDA T. WILLIAMS

Energetic, caring and full of life all were terms used to describe Janice Putnam, who died at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesperson Saturday.

Putnam was taken to Bayview after sustaining severe burns in a fire that started early Friday in the attic of her 16 E. North Ave. home, Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

Putnam won't be forgotten by neighbors, who say the single mother touched everyone she came in contact with.

"She was a fabulous mother," said Harold Walter, owner of Tranquility Salon and Spa on North Potomac Street, at the corner next to Putnam's home. "I'd take care of her sidewalk during the snow and she'd do anything for anybody."

Walter and Putnam had been neighbors for seven years, he said.

"She really supported me when I bought this building," Walter said.

Walter and several neighbors remembered Putnam for her participation in numerous neighborhood beautification and cleanup projects.

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"She had tons of energy," Walter said.

Neighbors said she always was concerned about the community's appearance and kept her own yard immaculate.

"She's going to be missed," Walter said.

Hawbaker said Putnam had burns all over her body. Firefighters arrived at her home at 5:54 a.m. Friday and found Putnam, who was the only person in the house, on the second floor, according to Hawbaker.

Neighbor Tom Todaro, of 35 E. North Ave., said Friday that Putnam's graphic arts business office, living room and kitchen are on the second floor of the house.

Judy Haviland lives in an apartment above Walter's business, next door to Putnam's house.

"I heard sirens, but I didn't go out for breakfast until 7 a.m.," said Haviland, who didn't know Putnam. "I was shocked and devastated to learn that this lady had been so seriously injured. I didn't move for about 20 minutes."

Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown said the cause of the fire still is under investigation and will be "for a while."

Next door neighbor Katie Lesznar said Putnam's attention to detail and passion for neighborhood beauty led to their brief friendship.

"We met officially last summer. She was picking up trash that had collected in front of our house," said Lesznar, who said her battle with multiple sclerosis has left her in a wheelchair.

Lesznar said she and Putnam, whom she called Nissa, recently had become friends and shared meaningful spiritual talks. She credits Putnam with lifting her spirits and being a friend during a rough time in her life.

"She reminded me of things that I'd forgotten in my self pity," Lesznar said.

"She's going to be with me forever," she said, "I'm glad I told her how instrumental she was in helping me get my life back together."

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