If you tilt your ear toward the heavens and listen hard enough you’ll hear the tinkling of keys—an organist tuning his instrument; perhaps a chorus of angels vocalizing, warming up, singing scales. They are preparing for her; for the star alto to take the stage as the heavens are now blessed with the soulful, spirited voice of Janet Dewey.
Janet was born July 26, 1928 to Peter and Jane Sawka in Detroit. She passed away, peacefully in her sleep, January 24, 2018. In the span of almost 90 years, Janet’s repertoire was vast, and not just with regard to music, although she most definitely carried under her arm and in her heart an endless musical soundtrack that guided her, and us, through life.
Precocious, smart, preternaturally talented, Janet barreled her way through school, graduating high school at the age of 16. Posing as a 19-year-old, yet only 16, Janet had the nerve and talent to sneak her way into a singing contest at the opulent Michigan Theatre performing “Embraceable You.” She made it to the finals, accompanied by the Detroit Symphony.
Although too young to receive a certificate to practice, Janet received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Mercy College. Never deterred, she forged ahead toward her career until a blind date sidetracked her; the record skipped, jumped ahead to another song and changed her trajectory when she met the love of her life, her “Maurie,” Maurice Dewey. They were blissfully married for 56 years, until his death in 2006.
Janet continued to add to her repertoire, giving birth to seven children within 10 years: Jane, Maurice III, Marianne, Peter, Judith, Monica and John. As she did with everything, Janet embraced the role of wife and mother and spoiled us all with her talent in the kitchen: her unparalleled pie crust, apple strudel, mouth-watering Sunday night dinners. Always a song at the tip of her tongue, Janet graced the parishioners from above in the choir loft at St. William Catholic Church in Walled Lake—her rendition of “Ave Maria” … unsurpassed.
Once her last child was enrolled in school, Janet dusted off her nurse’s cap, starched and ironed her hospital whites and strutted her way back to St. Joseph Hospital in Pontiac where she worked her way up, in just a few short years, to the position of director of nursing.
After they retired, Janet and Maurie set up camp in a gorgeous log home in Rogers City. But retirement did not mean slowing down, as she joined the choir at St. Ignatius Catholic Church; spun her own wool; knitted sweaters, booties and baby blankets for her growing family; perfected the art of quilt-making, hand-sewing quilts for each of her children and every single grandchild.
Janet was predeceased in death by her husband, Maurice; her parents Jane and Peter Sawka; and a sister Irene. Surviving are her seven children and their loved ones: David, Lori, Charlie, Alex, Gary and Kim; 16 grandchildren; and nine and one-half (the 10th coming in July) great-grandchildren.
The sound of her voice will forever be imprinted within our hearts but we know we cannot be stingy and keep her all to ourselves, for it is time to share. We will find peace knowing that she is now embraced in the wings of an angel, with a microphone in her hand, a glint of a smile in her eye, our dad by her side, entertaining the heavens above. Keep on singing for us Mom/Grammy/Janet… for we’ll be listening.
A Mass of the Resurrection will be held for Janet Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 11 a.m. in the chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. and a luncheon will follow the Mass.