Janet VanDerBogart was born to Rudolph and Agnes Navratil in the Upper East Side of New York City, November 21st, 1935. She was the middle child of five, preceded by brothers Jerome and Rudolph, and followed by sisters Constance and Jeannie. She is survived by her youngest, sister, (Jeannie), her four children (Karen Carr, Kathy Jo Van Der Bogart-Maiorana, Dale VanDerBogart, and Rebecca VanDerBogart); and four grandchildren (Todd VanDerBogart, Lindy VanDerBogart, Frank Maiorana, and ‘Becca Maiorana) two step grandchildren Jarrett Nahon and Jordon Nahon(RIP Jordon). In addition to these, she is loved and mourned by many who also called and considered her their “Mom,” too.
It’s no surprise to any of us that when asked what she aspired to be, she never wavered in her answer: “To be a mother and a Housewife.” It sounds like a simple enough goal, but life is not always so simple. After 11 years of marriage, between 8 states (Florida, Colorado, California, Texas, NY, Minnesota, Alabama and Pennsylvania under 12 roofs, (Janet ultimately selected Pennsylvania), she found herself to be the sole-provider, single mother of four. Being a mom was all there was time to be.
By 1971, she had found a great big farmhouse in Doylestown. The house was in a good school district, and the property and barn were spacious enough for the kids to finally spread out with room to spare. She found a local job, 2 tenants, and according to their age and abilities, her children were expected to do their part. Each had their own room, the walls and ceiling of which they each got to paint whatever they desired. Independence and interdependence was fostered there at 430 North Broad Street; the skills and scars of a family growing and healing together. Janet was the touchstone that held the tight knit family together. Like a diving rock at the center of a beautiful, but unknowable lake, she would encourage them by words and deeds to savor it all. “When in Rome,” she would say, “be a Roman!” Implying, “Be daring and fearless, then swim back and tell me all about it.” Janet was their steadfast anchor. Even later in life she provided a sense of calm to her children, in knowing that all was well in this crazy world, if they could just check in with a call and hear her voice.
What she had imagined being a mom was, had in practice, transformed her into a fierce example of living without apology, regret, or excuse. She worked tirelessly and uncomplaining for more than 50 years; at first to provide a safe and stable home for herself and children, then later to secure her personal independence and freedom, as well as set an example of what demanding work coupled with personal reward looked like. A perfect example of this was her first job as an Avon Lady. There, Janet created a supportive community of her very own. Honey Fellman, Kay Paton, Nancy Morell and Kass Wyatt, were first her customers, their close-knit friendships buoyed her through life with laughter and shared values.
Through the hardest times and easiest, Janet always appreciated life’s gifts. She relished life with joy and celebrated the modest and majestic with the same level of enthusiasm and just could not help but share it. Often calling a daughter, exclaiming, “My goodness, but did you see that sunset tonight?!” Or stopping in her tracks to swoon, “Doesn’t that coffee smell heavenly!” And often with whimsy, just “Look up at the clouds and tell me what you see.”
Janet personified Dicken’s Ghost of Christmas Present. If there was a song in her heart, she sang it. And if she did not know the words, she made them up, or borrowed them from another song, without apology. The table was always set, dinner was prepared with love and tradition, there was always room for guests, and no one ever left Janet's table hungry. Always a big bowl of treats for humans and dogs. Enough frozen stuffed peppers or cabbage to feed an army. Huge jars of homemade Roquefort dressing or marinated garden vegetables for after-school snacks. A lover of hot black coffee, then later in life discovering espresso, Janet’s proverbial mug was always half-full, to overflowing, the overflow was never withheld from those she loved. You could always find your size ice skates under the tree and special birthday surprises. She loved all the Holidays and relished the opportunity to decorate for and celebrate each of them. (Sometimes, she liked the decorations so well, she just kept them up!)
Being a grandmother fit hand in glove with this adventurous and celebratory way of living and Janet adored being a Grandmom. Before retiring, she would leave second shift at the factory, grab as many pajama-wearing grandchildren, (dogs, and birds) she could fit in her hatchback and drive through the night to spend long weekends thrill-seeking and bonding with them. Come September, she was looking forward to being a Great Grandmother too, when her eldest grandson, Todd, and his wife Natalie are expecting their first child. All of life’s milestones, from start to finish, were worthy of celebration, but holding babies, sent her over the moon.
An unabashed Animal Lover, Janet always had pets, but dogs were her sweet spot. She prized them for their individual gifts and faults, and later lived to indulge her own…as well as her children’s and grandchildren’s. Along the way there was RorieOgamoor (German Shepherd), Inca (Miniature Poodle), Bonnie (Jack Russell), Callie (Shih tzu), and her latest (and still-surviving Bichon-Shih tzu) “Princess Suzie Bear” (named after her own Grandmother, Susan Vayda), whom she frequently referred to her as “My best friend,” and “Sister” to her children.
Being present to the eruption and full-expression of all life forces delighted her and plants were no different. She had houseplants, "old friends", she'd nurtured for decades and Spring's bounty of well-layered, colorful perennial beds, with their resilient, yet unpredictable blooms, fed her appetite for color and curiosity. Janet freely admitted her “addiction to bulbs” and she indulged herself and her daughters with the latest hybrids and varietals. Welcoming Spring was a family affair and attending the Philadelphia Flower Show was an annual tradition. After retirement at the age of seventy, Janet volunteered in the gardens at Pearl S. Buck Museum. And later, just driving down long winding country roads with her daughter Kathy Jo, was an immersive and thrilling experience.
Maybe it was the city girl in her longing for open spaces, but if there was porch swing to sip coffee from, or hammock in which to steal a day dream, you'd find her there. Early on, there was camping with the kids and overnight boat trips. She loved camp-fire cooking and waterskiing; saying, “I was so tiny those days, I just popped right up!”
When living in Texas, kids in tow; she enjoyed day-tripping over the border into Mexico for the best tortillas and bread. Later, she took trips and cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, Spain, Croatia, France, and Italy, where she thrilled in the local architecture, culture, and cuisine. Life was an adventure that Janet embraced with gusto and joy. “Try everything once, she would say, “and if you like it, do it again!”
(Oh, that we could, mom.)
We will miss her every day, all the while carrying her words, her wisdom, and her songs in our hearts.
In honor of Janet, please consider making a donation to The Grey Muzzle Organization
Helping senior dogs find health, hospice, and loving homes.
Send condolences to www.varcoethomasfuneralhome.com