Janet Jess

Jan Jess, social justice advocate, basketball fanatic and devoted grandmother, died November 8, 2019, at Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence, Kan. She was 81.

A true Midwestern progressive and frontier feminist, she petitioned the Rock Rapids, Iowa, school board to start a girls' basketball team in the early 1950s.

Janet Kay Hurt was born on Jan. 21, 1938, in Spencer, Iowa, to Eleanor and Owen Hurt and grew up in northwest Iowa.

She married her husband, Paul, June 1, 1956. He preceded her in death on Oct. 22, 2015.

She and Paul adopted three children – Jim, David and Jill.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science from South Dakota State University in 1970 and her Master of Social Work from the University of Kansas in 1982. At KU she was selected as the Outstanding Nontraditional Woman Student.

Her first social work position was with the then-new hospice program of the Visiting Nurses Association of Douglas County. VNA Hospice was important in the end-of-life care of both Paul and Jan.

She returned to the School of Social Welfare as the assistant director of field practicum, retiring in 2003 after 20 years in the position. In that time, she helped place more than 6,000 students in the workforce.

Survivors include son, Jim, and wife, Trish, Lawrence, Kan.; son, David and partner Debbie Pentecost, Wichita, Kan.; daughter, Jill, and husband, John Phythyon, Jr., Columbus, Ohio; grandson, Eliot, Lawrence; grandson, Aidan, Kalamazoo, Mich.; granddaughter, Alida, Columbus; sister, Pat Achenbach, Spirit Lake, Iowa; brother, J.D. Garner, Lake Tahoe, Nev,; and many nephews and nieces.

As her final gift to higher education, she donated her body to the University of Kansas Medical Center.

A memorial service will be planned in the spring.

The family suggests donation in her name to Douglas County Hospice, 200 Maine Street, Suite C, Lawrence, KS 66044 or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

For more information or to post a condolence go to warrenmcelwain.com.

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