Janet Lou Becker Kitselman died Feb. 2, 2021, at Winchester Medical Center after a battle with COVID-19. Her grandson was at her side and a large and loving group of family and friends surrounded her in spirit. She died exactly two weeks shy of her 95th birthday.
Janet Lou Becker was born on Feb. 16, 1926, in Akron, Ohio, to Ella Wilson Belcher Becker and Arthur Vernon Becker. Raised in Warren, OH, as the oldest of 5 children, she graduated from Warren G. Harding High School in 1945. Jan worked in a factory for a year to pay for college and attended Muskingum College for two years. She was named the runner-up in the Miss Ohio Contest in 1948 before becoming a TWA hostess for several years.
In 1951, she met Lt. Col. Henry Allen Kitselman, Jr. on a blind date. They were married on April 7, 1952 and lived the transient life of a career military family. Jan and “Kit” enjoyed living in Stuttgart, Germany, and then made homes in Whippany, NJ, Asheville, NC, and Morristown, NJ, as they raised their two children, Ella and Allen. In each place, Jan shared her gifts of hospitality and care. As an active member of Morris Plains Presbyterian Church, Jan helped sponsor the “Fresh Air” Program for inner city children from Patterson, NJ, for three years.
In 1970, their family found “home” as they moved to Waterford, VA, where Jan would live for most of the rest of her adult life. She lovingly restored her early 1800’s home, Mill End, and it’s gardens, where she did much of the labor in the gardens herself. She was an active member and served on the board of the Waterford Foundation for many years. She worked to save the Second Street School in Waterford (one of the last standing one room schoolhouses for African American children in VA) and worked to raise money and help start what continues as a living history exhibit for children to experience. Jan was the Co-Chair of the Homes Tour and Craft Exhibits for the Waterford Fair for 15 years. She was the recipient of the Waterford Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. She was a long-time volunteer in the Loudoun Hospital long term care and surgical waiting room. Over the years she gave lectures on growing herbs to many garden clubs.
Jan was a FORCE in every aspect of her life! She was sharp, well-read, and did not hesitate to share her opinions with you. Jan helped bring history and beauty to life for so many, and her gift of hospitality provided welcome to all. She helped us learn to appreciate antiques, family history, and good food, wine and music. She read The Washington Post front to back every day, right up until the day she got sick. She shared her love of books and poetry. She taught us how to garden, the art of wreath-making and flower-arranging, and how to appreciate God’s beauty in nature. Simply put, Jan made everything a little more beautiful.
“Nana,” as her grand and great-grandchildren called her, relished her large and loving family. Her home was a home-base for all, and we will cherish the memories of garden parties, Waterford Fairs, hours-long discussions around the dinner table and the way her face lit up when she saw the guitars come out for a sing-along. Her legacy lives on in family and good friends who will continue to gather, love one another and work to make the world a better place for ALL people.
Jan leaves behind her two children, Ella Susan Kitselman Strowbridge (Robert) and Henry Allen Kitselman III (Laura), seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, three surviving siblings in Ohio, a loving extended family and dear, lifelong friends. There will be a Celebration of Life at a date later in 2021 when it is safe to HUG one another, and there will be a Service of Inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, where she will take her place alongside her husband.
In lieu of flowers, Jan’s family asks you to do a few things in her honor: wear your mask and take care of one another, read a book, plant something, eat good food, raise a glass and stop and take a moment to relish the beauty of the world around you.
Memorials can be made to Habitat for Humanity (https://www.habitat.org/support/honor-memorial-gifts) in Janet Kitselman’s name because she believed that “everyone deserves to have a home.”