Janet Lou Christianson, 95, of St. Anthony Park, died Nov. 8 surrounded by her loving family.
She was born in St. Paul to Fred and Clara (Lockman) Heinz on April 22, 1919. She had two older half-brothers, Harvey and Elmer, from her father’s previous, short marriage, who were raised by Fred’s sister Josephine. Three other siblings followed Janet: Lorraine, Fred and Mary Lou.
In 1935, times were hard, and at age 16, Janet was asked to leave school to work in her uncle’s plumbing shop. Through this she learned skills and earned money to help support her family. Perhaps that was the start of her remarkable ability to always make the best of any situation.
Janet was active at Warrendale Presbyterian Church (Como Park) in the Christian Endeavor program for youth. That grounding in faith became a central part of her life. She was a person of strong faith, reading the Bible daily and praying diligently for her family and those around her. Worship and service in her church, St. Anthony Park Lutheran since 1952, were constants.
In January 1943 she met her husband-to-be, Jim Christianson. While Janet was still living with her family on Kilbourne Avenue, Jim spied her out in the yard while he was visiting her neighbor. They met, a year-long courtship followed, and they were married on March 25, 1944. The next week they moved to Oak Park, Ill., where Jim had just been transferred and promoted to office manager at Consolidated Freightways. While in Oak Park, three children were born: Susan, Carol and David. In 1952, Jim was moved back to St. Paul be a terminal manager.
Jim and Janet bought a house at 1492 Raymond Ave. and Janet lived there until 1991, two years after Jim died. She then lived at the Luther Place Condominiums. In fall 2007, she went into transitional care at Lyngblomsten Care Center, where she lived the rest of her life in various locations.
In the 1950s and early 1960s there was a great need at Children’s Home Society to board children while they awaited adoption. Janet, along with several other neighborhood women, met that need. One by one, 22 babies were boarded at the Christianson home for as short as a few weeks to as long as two months. Great care and love were given and her children learned a lot about caring for babies. Janet’s love and care continued as she doted on her 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Janet could be called the bionic woman. She had rheumatoid arthritis since an early age and was left with gnarled hands, where no two finger segments pointed in the same direction. She faced detached retinas and corneal transplants at a time where the treatment was not as advanced as it is today. She had both hips (one twice), both shoulders and one knee replaced. In 2007, a severe eye infection damaged the cornea of her right eye, while macular degeneration was taking away sight in her left eye. After two transplants she was seeing again, but soon a stroke to her optic nerve left her blind.
Through all of this Janet accepted her plight and adapted to each situation, finding new ways to do what she wanted and needed to do.
Janet was very active in church groups and her local homemakers group. She also enjoyed traveling (such as 25 trips to Guam to visit her daughter Susan and her family), and yes, of course, conversing (a lot). She traveled with daughter Carol to Germany the day after her replaced hip popped out of joint. She always stayed positive and found new ways to do things. She also had a great sense of humor and wit.
After years of saying, “If I ever have to go to a nursing home, just shoot me,” she spent her last seven years at Lyngblomsten Care Center. Was she bitter and sad? No. She was thankful to the staff and became a friend to staff and residents alike.
At the end of her life, she was somewhat incoherent, but the words “I love you” came out loud and clear, a fitting close to a life of devotion to her children and her God.
Janet was preceded in death by her husband, parents, sister Lorraine Harding, and brothers, Harvey and Elmer Hinz. She is survived by her children, Susan (Charles) Freeman, Carol (Rickard) Malmberg and David (Michelle); 10 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; siblings, Fred (Arline) Heinz and Mary Lou (Richard) Sturm; brother-in-law, Al Harding; and many nieces and nephews.
A funeral service was held Nov. 14 at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, with interment at Elmhurst Cemetery. Memorials preferred to the church or the Salvation Army Lakewood Corps.