Janet Snover

Janet L Snover

Monday, March 10th, 1952 - Friday, February 14th, 2020
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SNOVER, Janet, L. MIT Mainstay and Medical Miracle Janet Snover was never one to pull her punches. She was as straightforward and courageous as they come. When she retired from her long career in communications at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she began her retirement speech by saying "As you know, I have been diagnosed with a lethal form of brain tumor." Janet was reporting a matter of fact, she would deal with it, and everyone knew that she would. Though she had to retire early, journalism was in her bones, and she thoroughly documented her "medical adventures," as she called them, bringing her thick binder of notes to each oncology appointment. Janet was a medical marvel. In 2005, she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, the type of brain tumor that took the lives of Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy. After an urgent craniotomy, she was given a prognosis of 15 months. Nevertheless, despite major complications, surgeries, and serious injuries, she thrived for an almost unheard of 15 years. Because this type of cancer eventually recurs, Janet's oncologist described her as an outlier rather than as a survivor. And an outlier she was, in her optimism, courage and determination to live her life as fully as possible. She maintained her positive attitude, astonished her friends and care givers, and worked towards resuming the activities she loved. Janet was always a fun patient. She learned the 50 states and their capitals in alphabetical order to help her through the many MRIs, counting on her fingers and hoping to end on her pinkie with Wyoming. Hospital and rehab staff remember her quizzing them on the capitals, or challenging them to find words that used all five vowels. She loved to ride her bicycle, but radiation therapy had affected her balance, making that impossible. Undeterred, she acquired a child's bike, which was lower to the ground, and rode that around town. She had recently planned to buy a three-wheel cycle, but events conspired against her. Though her tumor never recurred, radiation and chemotherapy damage eventually took their toll, and Janet died of cardiac arrest on Valentine's Day. An ardent word-lover, she would have appreciated that her time of death – 10:01 a.m. – was a palindrome. Janet donated her brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves to Massachusetts General Hospital, in the hope of helping others. She told her husband, Jim Stansfield, who had been her round-the-clock caregiver for the past year, that this was the ultimate in reuse and recycling. Janet's dedication to her career at MIT was as impressive as the way she dealt with her health challenges. From her first position in the News Office in 1975, to her last as Senior Communications Officer in the Office of the President, she was the consummate writer and editor, and more: a superb team builder and leader, and resource to faculty, staff and students throughout the Institute. There are people whose professional contributions go far beyond their job titles and descriptions. Janet was one such person. She was a keeper and transmitter of MIT culture in many domains. Realizing that the MIT vocabulary was confounding for people new to the Institute, she created a comprehensive 'Acronyms and Abbreviations Dictionary'. By the time she retired, it had become an essential Institute resource. It is regularly updated, and lives on as an MIT Wiki. Janet led from the heart, and helped knit together the community in countless ways. An avid gardener, she helped establish the annual MIT Plant Swap where faculty, staff, and students come together to share extra plants from their gardens, homes or offices. From that, came the MIT Gardeners Group. She worked with MIT students to organize clothing donation drives for fellow students in need of winter or interview attire. She served on countless committees and working groups. She gave classes to MIT staff on all manner of publications issues. And during the days of reengineering at MIT, she provided regular updates to inform, demystify, and encourage people to embrace new ways of doing things. Born in Winnetka, Illinois in 1952, Janet's skills as a writer and editor were clearly evident in her junior high and high school newspapers and yearbooks, and she pursued these interests at Simmons College, where she was an editor for the Simmons Review and earned her B.A. with distinction, taking double honors in English and Communications. At MIT, Janet made a point of hiring students as interns through the Simmons' program. One former intern, now a college president, wrote to say how much she had valued Janet's mentoring. After the glioblastoma diagnosis, Janet endowed a Simmons' scholarship fund in her name that has already supported several students. Janet was a lifetime swimmer. Her husband, Jim, first met her in 1975 at the MIT Alumni Pool. She was returning to swimming, and he was learning, so they shared the shallow pool. Several years later they became a couple, and were devotedly married for almost 40 years. Janet would relate that, on her first date with Jim, he was concerned he mightn't recognize her with her clothes on. AT MIT, her office was amply decorated with Post-It notes and quotations. One became her touchstone throughout her illness: 'The control center of your life is your attitude.' At home, her filing system was as complete as at MIT, comprising snippets of whatever fascinated her: lists of interesting words from crossword puzzles; all gifts given and received, along with drafts of thank you notes; quotations; descriptions of tropical plants, birds and fish from Caribbean trips; and rules of grammar, such as the correct use of the semi-colon. Janet chronicled her medical adventures, just as she did all aspects of her life, in meticulous, intimate diaries. One early entry reads, "I don't think I'm afraid of dying, but I certainly don't want a sudden death. I'm sure that I'll enjoy the melodrama and the time to organize my little affairs before I die." She had fifteen years. Janet was predeceased by her father and mother, Mel and Jean Snover. She is survived by her older brother Paul and his wife Lydia, her younger brothers, Jay and John and their wives, Beth and Christi. Also, by her husband, Jim, and his siblings in the UK, Janet, Elizabeth and Michael and their spouses, Steve, Les, and Paola. In light of the current health situation, the memorial service has been postponed indefinitely. . Further information will be posted at Lane Funeral Home in WINCHESTER. Memorial gifts may be made to "The Janet L Snover '75 Endowed Scholarship Fund" at Simmons University. Lane Funeral Service Inc., 760 Main Street, Winchester, 01890
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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, April 18th, 2020 | 11:00am
    Saturday, April 18th, 2020 11:00am
    First Congregational Church
    21 Church Street
    winchester, MA 01890
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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