By Darla McCammon
In my 11 years as executive director of the Animal Welfare League, I encountered many different personalities. Some of them were our clients and staff members, while others were generous donors and volunteers. I enjoy meeting people and many in this group were also quite entertaining to know.
One of those unique personalities was Jan Howard. She was a longtime volunteer at the shelter. We called her our “laundry lady” and even at her advanced age of 82, she was still a little five-foot-tall spitfire. She was dependable, hardworking, and wow did she love our animals.
We did have something in common: art. Jan was a member of the Decorative Painters’ Society. She always donated some of her crafty work to our events to help raise fund for the shelter. She had acquired her credentials for craftsmanship in art while living in California, where she took up art as a career. Her forte was decorative painting. She painted wall hangings, baskets, ceramics and just about any form of décor for the home one could imagine. She took classes as she traveled with her husband, following his career in the Air Force.
I had to run interference on occasion for our dear volunteer, Jan. She would not tolerate anyone breaking the rules or doing something she thought might harm one of our pets. Another staff member would run to my office with the alarm that I was needed. Jan was accosting one of our clients rather loudly. It took quite a bit of diplomacy to both calm Jan down and send her back to her laundry chores as well as turn things around with the client, who was totally unaware what had set Jan off. It did give me an opportunity to explain to the client that there was a “correct” way to play with kittens and puppies. Jan was not totally mollified and kept a sharp eye out in case the culprits came to visit us again.
Jan seemed tireless and included many trips to pick up the funds filling up our dog and cat canisters we had placed around town. But as time passed, her health began to suffer and a couple of auto accidents gave evidence that she might need to slow down. After a particularly bad auto accident, we began to see less and less of Jan. We missed her greatly as the laundry began to pile up. Some other volunteers stepped in to help us keep up with the many loads of laundry we did each day. But as nice as they were, they were not Jan. As she worsened, I visited her in the nursing home and brought her photos of the new construction going on as we built the new shelter. I am very sad as I write this because wonderful, generous Jan died Tuesday, Feb. 11.
If you wish to see more of Jan’s artwork, please stop by the new shelter and enjoy her clever and decorative paintings while they are on display.