Eighty-eight years ago, Janice Erie Hodge burst into the world in Akron, Ohio. She was the second child born to John and Oma Hodge and quickly became her older sister, Faye’s, playmate and best friend. More siblings arrived in the years that followed: Bou, Johnny, and Jimmy. Janice was born with a strong will and strong opinions! She wanted to be in the same class with her sister, Faye, so she skipped a grade and graduated from Central High School at age 16. A few years before that, she made a decision to dedicate her life to following Jesus. That was a decision that directed her path throughout her life.
Soon after graduation from high school, she moved to California to attend Life Bible College. At age 19, she married Glenn Howes, Jr., who was also from Akron and had moved to California to attend the same college. They had three children together, Robin, Jim, and Honey Bunch. When the family moved to Spring Arbor, Michigan, Janice decided to enroll in Spring Arbor College to become a teacher. She graduated with a BA in 1966. The family then moved to Canton, Ohio. In 1969, Glenn parted ways with Janice, and she became a single mom. Through the years, she worked as an elementary school teacher and she taught at a preschool. Janice loved working with young children and started her own preschool, Canton Christian Academy, in 1975. She poured her love and energy into that school!
In the early 1980’s, Janice learned to ski! She would tell us all how nice and warm she was whenever she had a hot flash and we were shivering in the below zero temperatures!
In 1984, the California sunshine began to call her back to the West Coast. She moved to San Diego and began teaching at Faith Community School. She decided to go back to school again, enrolling at Azusa University where she earned her M.Ed. in 1985. She also did post graduate work at Akron University, Kent State University, and University of California, San Diego. She taught at Mira Mesa Christian School and then became a music teacher in the San Diego Schools from 1990 until 2004. “Mrs. Howes,” as she was known at school, was a favorite teacher of many as she helped each of her students shine as stars in the special programs they put on for the community. There were costumes and props and lots of music (and noise!) It was not uncommon for her to stay up all night creating costumes for her students.
Janice was a hard worker, a curious learner, and a creative artisan, sewing, drawing, designing and building all sorts of things. She composed many songs and poems, and published a few books, two for children on the United States Constitution and one about problems she experienced as a teacher in the San Diego School District.
Janice was known as “Grandma” to Robin’s daughters, Ali and Heidi, and to Jim’s daughters, Tiffany, Bethany, and Desi. She was “Granny” to Honey’s children, Asher, Jarah, and Jeriel. She loved her grandchildren dearly and brought fun and adventure into their lives. There were also decisions made that resulted in deep hurts. May the Lord bring healing.
In 1991, Janice was introduced to a Kurdish family who had moved to San Diego as refugees. Love and kindness overcame language, cultural, and religious differences. They became her second family and brought much joy into her life.
When Janice’s mother died in 2005, she and two of her siblings inherited portions of her mother’s farm in Ohio. She bought out her sister’s portion, and her brother sold his portion to the neighbor. How she loved working on that farm in the summertime while living in California in the winter! She cut down trees to make a “park,” built a bridge so she could drive her tractor across the stream, cleaned up the lake and put paddle boats in it for guests to enjoy, planted a garden and flowers and fruit trees, added on a porch, then added on a great room with a fireplace, and while she was at it, a basement, oh, and another porch because who can have too many porches?!? Once again, she found a project and poured herself into it until she absolutely did not have the strength to do so any longer.
In 2016, Janice, the indomitable, began to have heart pains. She had a torn mitral valve that required repair. Her granddaughter, Tiffany, camped out at the hospital in California with her and made sure that she got the best care possible. The surgery was successful, but she never completely regained her strength. Problems at the farm with floods, a challenging neighbor, and a failed sale caused her discouragement. In 2019, her grandson, Asher, died in a helicopter crash. We all know what happened in 2020. Fortunately, she was living with Brad and Honey at that time, so she was not completely isolated, but still, it was hard. Her blood pressure continued to rise as her health continued to decline.
For the past two years of her life, she rarely was able to leave her house except to go to an occasional medical appointment or to have dinner with family and friends at Brad and Honey’s. Her little dog, Bonnie, who had become her “baby” back in 2014, was her constant companion. Although her body and mind continued to deteriorate and disappoint her, her faith remained strong. When asked if there was anything she needed, she would often reply that she wanted new eyes, or new ears, or a new body, or a new brain. She has those now. She is with her Savior, Jesus, whom she loved with all her heart.