Fall was Mom’s favorite season. The bright oranges. reds, and yellows complimented her flaming auburn hair. It was the season for the landmarks of her life: her birth; marriage; the death of her life partner of 75 years; and 2 weeks later, her death.
Ruby Janice Jacobs Klein entered this world, October 24, 1926, as the daughter of Vernon Huntley Jacobs and Ruby Nancy Willett Jacobs. Her formative years were lived in Plains, KS. Janice’s characteristic personality emerged early: shy, curious, deeply intelligent, independent, with an appetite for learning and experiencing everything. By 8th grade she had proudly applied for a Social Security number and began a series of after- school and summer employment opportunities at the local pharmacy, grain elevator and bank to earn money for college. Her dream was to attend medical school which did not materialize until her death, October 18, 2022, (one week short of her 96th birthday) when her body was donated to the KU Medical School Willed Body Research Program. Her family cheered!
Mom earned an Associate Degree from Colorado Women’s College in Denver, CO., then studied pre-med at KU before she accepted the marriage proposal of her childhood friend, Wm. H. Klein Jr. It was a beautiful wedding in the Fall of 1947. The wheat crop had been bountiful and off they drove in Dad’s new Ford convertible for a six-week honeymoon in CA. Within 3 years, they were homesteading on a farm 20 miles southeast of Tribune in what Mom described as a “chicken shed with an outhouse.” She felt like a pioneer living WITHOUT electricity, running water, an indoor toilet, or a telephone; and WITH a toddler, Kandee Kae, and a baby, William Huntley. Later Rock Alan followed by Kellee Jo completed their family.
It was no secret that Janice disliked living on a farm, “twenty miles from nowhere”. It was not the life she had earlier envisioned. However, Mom’s motto was “Bloom Where You Are Planted” and she did. In those early years, she concentrated on being the BEST Mom and wife she could be.
Even then, the stack of notebooks on her bedroom dresser grew as she enrolled in academic classes through the Garden City Community College Outreach Program. Local instructors shared their talents with Janice in photography, art, crocheting and knitting. At the age of 57, Mom received
her college diploma from St. Mary’s of the Plains College In Dodge City. Her proud family cheered.
In the late 1960’s after Mom launched her youngest child into elementary school, she seized the opportunity to become the X-ray technician at Greeley County Hospital and a clinical assistant to Dr. Willard Werner. As one of the first group of trained volunteer EMT’s, she rode in the ambulance with Dr. Werner to medical emergencies throughout the county. (The ambulance was the doctor’s station wagon!) She loved this emersion into the world of medicine and excelled at her responsibilities for 20 years. Her retirement coincided with her new goal of being the best Nana she could be to her grandchildren.
Janice was into physical fitness and nutritional health way before it became a national obsession. Most mornings she started her day by walking or jogging a considerable distance followed by toning exercises on the living room floor. She was often seen riding her bike around town and walked the treadmill during inclement weather. Entrees from her kitchen were likely accompanied by vegetables, or fruit.
Mom was a classy, elegant lady. One of her “therapeutic” pastimes was shopping for clothing and shoes. It gave her a “high”, she said, and was a coping mechanism for stress. She had a knack for assembling tasteful outfits, meticulously accessorized, that brought many compliments.
Faith was integral to her life. She read the “Daily Word” every morning-a habit inherited from her mother, Nana Jacobs. She actively studied the Bible underlining passages with yellow and pink highlighters. As a lifetime member of the Tribune Methodist Church, she held, at one time or another, most lay positions including Secretary and Treasurer. Generously and quietly, Janice donated regularly to local & national charities and helped individuals in need.
KU sports was a passion. Attending a KU game brought her unlimited joy. At home she dressed in KU attire for every basketball and football game cheering for her team as she watched the game on TV. She never considered herself athletic but developed a love for tennis. She played regularly with a fun-loving group of women who caravanned to tennis camps and held an annual Wimbledon party complete with champagne and strawberries.
In the mid 1980’s when computers revolutionized the world, Janice was determined to ride the technology wave taking computer courses, reading software manuals and becoming proficient in basic applications.
She gifted we kids and spouses with our first cell phones, converted the church office from paper to digital, & was the first on-line customer at the local bank. In her 90’s, she continued to communicate with her family via e-mail, text and facebook from her i-Phone and MacBook Air. She NEVER stopped learning.
In October of 2016, our entire family gathered to celebrate Mom/Nana’s 90th Birthday. Three of her adult grandchildren summed up the ways in which Nana Klein had influenced their lives: Her faith; the way she led by example; her patience; her healthy lifestyle; her passion for KU; her love of lifetime learning, her philanthropy; her commitment to Papa and their marriage; and her unconditional love for family. That is her legacy.
Janice was a dedicated Mom to her children: Hunt (Vickie) Klein, Rock (Teri) Klein, Kellee (Chris) Dixon, and Kandee Klein. She was a proud Nana to her grandchildren: Jennifer (John) Boggs, Levi (Michelle) Klein, Jeremi (Stewart) Whitham, Jentri (Nick) Hahn, Jasmine (Aaron) Kastner, Michael (Claudia) Klein, Robert (Amilette) Klein, William Joseph Klein and Karee (Taylor) Lundy and to her 16 great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; her dear sister, Patricia Joanne Utz, and husband, Carl; daughter-in-law, Marilyn Smith Klein; and nephew, Randy Lane Utz.
Janice’s life was celebrated along with her husband’s, William H. Klein Jr., on October 22, 2022, in Tribune, KS. Memorials are suggested to the Wallace-Greeley Healthcare Foundation in care of Price & Sons, PO Box 161, Leoti, KS, 67861.