Though Janet Keck’s death has saddened her MCCC coworkers, her life and memory continue to bring smiles to their faces.
While on vacation in July, Janet “Janie” Keck, lost her life tubing near San Antonio, Texas. The 67-year-old Temperance resident died when her raft tipped over on the Guadalupe River.
Janie was working as a part-time lab technician at the Whitman Center, but had been affiliated with the college since 1985.
Co-workers Sandra Kosmyna, Director of the Whitman Center, and Rebecca Libstorff, part-time administrative assistant for the Whitman Center, said that employees have been in a solemn mood since her death.
“It was such a shock because we saw her right before she left for her vacation,” Kosmyna said. “She was so happy and looking forward to it. No one ever would’ve expected this to happen.”
Libstorff said she thinks it will take a semester or so for people to really get over the shock.
“I think it’ll be a big adjustment,” she said. “I think a lot of the students that are normally here were very used to seeing her and they might be very surprised when they come back.”
Megan Ashenfelter, an MCCC student, knew Janie from taking evening classes in the lab.
“I think a lot of the students will come in looking for her, looking for assistance especially,” Ashenfelter said.
Janie’s picture and obituary were posted in the office and in the computer lab of the Whitman center.
Janie was born Oct. 11 in Longton, Kansas to parents Hubert Harvey and Annabelle Hogan, who preceded her in death, along with her sister.
Her remaining family consists of her husband, Bobby Keck, two brothers, four daughters, two sons, fifteen grandchildren, and four great grandchildren, of whom Kosmyna said she stayed very involved with.
“She went to every wedding, every graduation,” she said. “Last year she made her granddaughter’s wedding dress.”
Her obituary stated that she loved traveling, playing cards, doll making, and spending time with her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her dog Zoe.
Janie was the vice president of the International Doll Making Association and the chair of the Michigan convention last year.
She had been going to an international convention in Phoenix and had stopped near San Antonio to meet her brothers for an annual family vacation when the accident happened, Kosmyna said.
Kosmyna said Janie loved to travel and had recently returned from a trip to Hawaii.
“She had gone snorkeling and climbed to the top of a volcano,” she said. “She was a really adventurous lady for her age.”
“She wasn’t scared of anything,” Libstorff added. “She would just live life to the fullest and try anything once.”
Janie was first hired in 1995 when MCCC received a state training grant to assist North Star Steel, now Max Steel, with training employees in computer literacy and various Microsoft programs.
“Janie was hired to be, basically, the coordinator of the project and was there on site at the North Star Steel plant for about a year and a half as our employee,” said John Joy, Dean of Corporate and Community Services.
Joy originally had hired Janie for the position and remained in contact with her on a weekly basis.
“At that time computers were just getting a foothold in the production environment so there were a lot of people who were new to it, and she enjoyed that student contact.”
When the grant ended, North Star Steel expanded the project and hired Janie to continue training employees.
In the fall of 2007, Janie began working for MCCC again as a part-time lab technician for the Whitman Center.
Janie’s funeral was held on Monday, July 26, at Rupp Funeral Home. She was buried in Roselawn Memorial Park in LaSalle.
MCCC President David Nixon attended the funeral, along with the Whitman Center’s full-time lab technician.
“The pastor had everyone at the funeral stand up and tell each other what you would remember about her, even if you didn’t know the person standing next to you,” Nixon said.
“The whole family had some very good memories,” he added. “It’s tragic to lose someone like that.”
For a number of people it was Janie’s compassion that stood out to them.
“I was so impressed by the number of people that commented about how she had affected their lives,” Nixon said. “She was described as such a jovial, happy person that she made other people happy by being around her.”
Nixon said though he didn’t have a lot of contact with her on a daily basis, it made him happy that there was somebody like her in student services.
“The thing that pleased me was hearing how she helped the students in the computer lab,” he said. “She championed their causes and helped them.”
For some it was her love of excitement that caught their attention.
“I didn’t know a lot about her personally, but I know she had an adventurous spirit and liked to try new things and live life, and I think that’s what she was doing when the accident happened,” Joy said.
Yet for others it was her friendship and her character that left an impression.
“She was one of the nicest women I’d ever met,” Libstorff said with a smile. “She’s irreplaceable.”