Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eulogy - John & Janet Waite

John Braden Waite and fellow identical triplets Robert and Ray were born on April 6, 1928, in Toledo, Oregon.  They joined 4 older siblings, in order of their births, Stephen, twins Erwin and Arabell, and Edith.  The parents of John and his 5 surviving siblings (Ray had died at birth) were Stephen Oren Waite (1884-1934) and Julia Braden Waite (1892-1980). 

Janet Eleanor Waite was born Janet Rogers on May 30, 1931, in Portland, Oregon.  She was the older of 2 daughters of Raymond Boyd Rogers (1896-1966) and Winifred St. Clair Rogers (1900-1985).  Little sister Gayle joined the family in 1935.  

Both of John and Janet’s extended family ancestors came mostly from New England and New York.  Both extended families (grandparents and great-grandparents migrated west in the 1800’s with some “stopping off” places like Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.  All 8 grandparents of John and Janet eventually arrived in Oregon and are buried or interred in either Multnomah or Jefferson counties. 

John came from a family that farmed and labored from Central Oregon, to the Willamette Valley, to the Coast Range in Toledo, Oregon.  Times for the family became especially tough when, in the depths of the Great Depression, the father Stephen Oren Waite died in work accident on February 14, 1934.  The family did the best they could, splitting time between Toledo and Corvallis, but lost their Yaquina Bay oyster farm to back taxes.  Regardless, new safety net programs of the 1930's helped them to survive.  Thanks to older siblings and their spouses, plus the G.I. Bill, John was able to go to college, graduating from Oregon State University in 1953. 

Janet Rogers Waite grew up in Portland's Eastmoreland neighborhood.  Her father, Raymond, was a commercial artist, inventor, photographer, and carpenter.  Her mother, Winifred, was a schoolteacher.  Both had graduated from college – Ray from University of Oregon and Win from Willamette University.  While this family was much smaller than John's family, Ray and Win had come from larger families where family and work were treasured.  Janet graduated from Willamette University in 1953.  

John and Janet met as new teachers at Grant Union High School in John Day, Oregon, during the 1953-1954 school year.  They were married in Portland on June 25, 1954. 

That summer they moved to Florence, Oregon, where John would begin teaching science and math at Siuslaw High School.  Janet gave birth to David in 1955 and then to Richard in 1957.  As the boys grew a bit older, Janet began teaching Home-Ec at Siuslaw.  While Florence was somewhat isolated from the larger world, John enjoyed the hobby of ham radio operator.  All family members enjoyed the experience of communicating with people from all over the world. 

By about 1965, John had earned his Master's Degree from Oregon State University and had begun searching for a college teaching job.  As would be the case in each future family decision of such a large scale, John and Janet involved their children in the decision making process.  By 1966, they knew they would be moving from cozy, quiet Florence to a big city in the south, Norfolk, Virginia.  Although the family treasured these years growing in Florence, they were very excited for a major adventure. The big move in July 1966 was an adventure in itself.  It involved a U-Haul truck loaded with only the most important possessions.  John drove while Janet navigated and kept a journal.  David and Richard "helped" by staying fairly quiet sitting side by side on the bench seat between John and Janet.  

John busied himself as a professor of sciences at Old Dominion University while Janet stayed home and planned the next big thing for the Waite family.  John and Janet had always wanted to grow the family with a daughter or two, but were told that their blood types would lead to an increased risk of birth defects.  So they began the process to adopt their daughters – sisters to David and Richard.  

John and Janet were already progressive pioneers in many ways.  During these years both volunteered at a community center in poverty stricken Portsmouth, Virginia.  As for the adoption, they found out that they could adopt fairly quickly if they chose children that were non-white, older, or with disabilities.  Or… they could wait years for the completion of an Ozzie & Harriet or Cleaver family.  They chose to just make it happen, again involving their children in these decisions while discussing potential consequences.  Nancy Gayle was born in 1967 and joined the family in about September of that year.  Karen Susan followed in 1969.  

While all this was happening, John and Janet were on the lookout for a new teaching and living adventure.  They wanted a place in which the culture and diversity of that place would match or exceed that of the family.  Once again, David and Richard were allowed to help with the family decision.  Their choices in 1969 were Sierra Leone in tropical west Africa, or the tropical island U.S. Territory of Guam. 

This move in the summer of 1969 involved nearly 8,000 miles on jet airplanes, rather than a U-Haul truck.  It was equally the adventure.  The family chose Guam, thinking it might be like Hawaii.  Guam is not Hawaii.  This disappoints many a "statesider".  However, the Waite family would embrace this place and it's people, culture, food, lifestyle, and language.  

John busied himself as a professor of sciences at University of Guam.  Janet stayed home with Nanci and Karen, while David and Richard attended junior high and high school.  During 1972-1973, the family spent the year in Greeley, Colorado, while John earned his PhD degree and Janet her Master's degree, both in education, at University of Northern Colorado.  Then it was back to Guam, where Janet did some teaching, as well.  

In 1976 John and Janet and Family moved to Longview, Washington, where John would teach sciences at Lower Columbia College.  Besides continuing to be mom at home, Janet did some high school and college teaching.  

In 1979 John, Janet, Nanci, and Karen left Longview for a 36-acre farm across the Columbia River in Rainier, Oregon.  Besides continuing regular teaching and parent duties, John and Janet's hobby farm had 1 or 2 hay crops a year, cows, pigs, chickens, and (briefly) garden-munching goats.  

John and Janet spent their last 20 or so years living at Willamette View Manor in Milwaukie, Oregon.  They enjoyed friends, travel, and most of all, family and each other.  Both spent years volunteering at the Manor Carousel and Manor Mart, and John as a Manor audio/visual technician.  They left behind 4 children, 6 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.  Ironically, for John and Janet who wanted to ensure that they had daughters, 9 out of the 10 grand and great-grand kids are girls.  

John and Janet are greatly missed and leave behind a better world for having been here.

No comments:

Post a Comment