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Janet K. Dayhoff

June 18, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
(Page 2 of 2)

Her Paramount home is filled with her collections of books, postcards and memorabilia of the area and her family's life, all neatly organized in her thorough style.

"She knew where everything was and would direct you. 'Go to the shelves in the northwest corner of the attic on the second shelf,'" said daughter Barbara Curtis of Bowie, Md., the youngest of the Dayhoffs' two children.

Barbara said her mother also had that same attachment to people she met and many would become lifelong friends with whom she corresponded regularly.

When the owners of Cracker Barrel magazine, Frank and Suanne Woodring, needed information on the Paramount area in 1995, they were sent to Janet and Donald, her husband of 63 years. The upcoming fall issue will be dedicated to Janet.

"Nobody was a stranger to her," Frank said. "When she met someone new, they left the best of friends."

The collaboration with Cracker Barrel magazine led to a close friendship with the Woodrings, and when questions about local history popped up in their conversations that Janet couldn't answer, she would know exactly where to find the answer in her reference books at home.

"She wouldn't go to bed until she found the answer," Donald said.

"How she retained all if it ..." said Donald, shaking his head. "That's how good her memory was."

Janet also instilled a love of reading in her two children and three grandsons. She insisted on buying a board book last Christmas for the couple's first great-grandson, who was born in December 2010.

"She made sure I owned every Newberry Award book and read them," Barbara said.

She said her mother had high standards for her children and helped them attain their goals.

Janet's love of local history and reading also led her to volunteer in the Heritage Room and library at the couple's church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.

It was at Trinity's Luther League that Janet and Donald met while in high school.

"But she tells me she had her eye on me before that," Donald said with a twinkle in his eye.

Janet and her twin sister, Jane (Kitzmiller), of Aberdeen, Md., grew up with their parents in a duplex on Wayside Avenue in Hagerstown.

"We enjoyed each other. Usually, when one of us got sick, the other one did. She gave me chickenpox," Jane said.

Jane remembers picnics at Pen Mar Park and summer days spent playing with paper dolls.

Their grandparents, and at some point, an aunt and uncle, lived next door. Later in life, Janet cared for several family members, moving them to her home.

"It was a very close-knit family," Donald said. "When I first started going with her, I thought the wrong people were her parents."

Janet and Donald both attended Woodland Way Junior High School and Hagerstown High School, graduating in 1944, the day after D-Day. Janet was a member of the Cadet Nurse Corps and a Class of 1947 graduate of the Washington County Hospital School of Nursing, as was Jane.

Donald, meanwhile, went into the service in January 1945 and was in the U.S. Naval Reserve until August 1946. The couple married in October 1947 after Janet finished nursing school.

Janet's focus became her home and family, but she did work as a private-duty nurse and would fill in for vacationing nurses, proud of her nursing license and maintaining it until 2010. She also volunteered with a cerebral palsy clinic, among other things.

Son John was born in 1950, and Barbara was born five years later. John died of leukemia in 1997.

After their wedding, the Dayhoffs moved to the Paramount home they built. Donald said whenever he suggested moving to another house, Janet wanted nothing to do with the idea.

It was in that home that Donald cared for Janet after a stroke three years ago, until her death after a respiratory arrest triggered by asthma. She also had several heart attacks over the years.

"She never really complained and never gave up," Donald said. "It was very sorrowful for me to see her in that situation, but very meaningful for me to be able to contribute to relieving her discomfort. I felt anything I did was helping her."

He added that their time together in the past few years made them really close.

Donald said Janet thrived on being involved in their children's activities.

"She was any place the kids were," Donald said.

Whether it was camping with Barbara's Girl Scout troop, serving as a room mother at school or helping with a turkey supper fundraiser for the Paramount Elementary School PTA, Janet could be counted on as a dependable behind-the-scenes force.

"She never did anything because her name would be attached to it," Donald said.

"She did things very quietly," Barbara said.

Son-in-law Bill Curtis said people wondered how Janet did everything she did.

"She had routines and did certain things on certain days," Bill said. "She became a master at organizing her life and the life of her children."

Barbara said her mother even organized the kitchens of several family members and provided her with a successful model for how to do things.

"She was always planning ahead," Barbara said. "Everything moved smoothly with her."

Bill and Barbara said Janet wasn't one to express herself with words, but would show her love in her actions, especially if she knew someone needed something.

"Her actions showed how much she cared about people," Barbara said.                                      

Janet didn't like to fly, so the Dayhoffs visited 49 states by car. Family vacations were well-planned by Janet with trinkets, snacks and games for the kids to fill the trip, whatever the duration.

"A hallmark of Mother was her good nature," Barbara said. "She was upbeat, always optimistic."

Janet's love of museums, nature and history led the family to many historical sites, as well as some unusual destinations, such as the National Potato Museum, National Jell-O Museum and National Mustard Museum.

Donald has only praise for his wife.

"I have many blessings. The best one was when the good Lord gave me Janet," Donald said.

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