Our favorite ballroom dancer turns 90 tomorrow and, if you think she is even mildly daunted at the prospect of hitting that milestone in the midst of a pandemic, you don’t know the unflappable Janet Mahr.
She and her husband of 64-years kicked off their lives together in the midst of a local pandemic when, back in August of 1951, a small pox outbreak hit the small farming community of Reedsburg, Wisconsin. With the whole town under quarantine, the young couple had to get special permission to be married in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. To do so, the wedding party and all of their guests had to wear vaccination tags pinned to their chests in order to enter the church. This meant that Janet’s two maternal aunts, both nurses who had flown in from New York for the occasion but had no proof of any smallpox vaccination they may have received, could not attend the ceremony.
Still, Janet remembers the occasion and all of the years that followed, with joy.
The youngest child and only daughter of dairy farmers, Janet maintained both an agrarian work ethic and an aristocratic style all her life. Perfectly accessorized, manicured and coiffed in any situation, Janet exudes both efficiency and elegance. The woman gets things done.
Not too long ago, she spotted a gentlemen sitting alone on a picnic table near the Erb Park Pool. Something about the way he was watching the children bothered her, so she marched her five-foot-nothing self up to him and said, “Why are you sitting here with your sunglasses on on a cloudy day?”
He mumbled something and she responded. “I think you should leave now.”
And he did.
Though she has moved to a maintenance free living situation now, Janet could still wield a donut frying basket and a snow shovel with equal dexterity. She probably still does the latter when the snow plows are tardy and she has places she needs to be.
It has been five years since she lost her beloved husband Doug, a WWII veteran who served under General Patton and earned a bronze star for his heroism (he crawled out of a foxhole to repair a communications line and, “although the area was severely pounded by heavy barrages of hostile artillery fire, he remained steadfastly at his post.”)
Together, Doug and Janet raised three children , who, in turn, raised five children and, happily, they will all be together for the 90th birthday celebration.
She looked as elegant as ever yesterday when I saw her, but Janet pretty emphatically did not want me to take her picture (because she gets her hair done on Fridays), so I told her I would use some from the archive for this post.
Happy birthday to one of the most active, chic, stubborn, healthy, interesting, impressive nonagenarians I know.
We’re honored to call you friend.