In memory of
Janet Wertz Colenda
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In memory of
Janet Wertz Colenda
WINSTON SALEM - On April 13, 2017, Janet W. Colenda found loving peace at the age of 97. She was born on October 10, 1919 in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. She was the second of six children born to Flo Jean and Archibald (Archie) William Wertz. She was the only surviving sibling at the time of her passing. The economic hardships of the late 1920's and 30's led Janet's family to live in several cities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They finally settled in Washington DC, where she graduated from the District's Eastern High School in 1937. During her senior year of high school she was feature's writer and associate editor of the student newspaper. Throughout her formative years she was an avid athlete, an accomplished vocalist, a budding artist, and a caregiver to her siblings after her parents divorced. She was deeply devoted to her faith, shaped by her involvement in youth activities in the Presbyterian Church and by her mentor, Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall. Challenging herself to explore opportunities beyond her imagination, Janet applied to and was accepted into the second class of airline stewardesses for Pennsylvania Central Airlines (PCA). Her "ship" was the venerable DC-3. She would regale family and friends with numerous stories of "her" pilots, fellow stewardesses, passengers, and harrowing adventures, including several crash landings. PCA eventually became part of United Airlines. On a flight from Washington DC to Norfolk she met her husband of 62 years, Christopher C. Colenda, Jr., of Norfolk, Virginia, then a 1st Lieutenant, Infantry, the United States Army. They were married on September 10, 1943, and within 4 months, Chris left for the Italian Campaign, returning from Europe in 1946. While continuing his service in the Army Reserves, Janet became a wonderful partner for Chris' career in sales and management with the Corn Products/Best Food Company, now part of Unilever. Career stops included Norfolk, Richmond, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Chicago. Janet pursued life long passions in music, art and her faith. She was a Deaconess in the Presbyterian Church, a member of PEO, and active in chorale music and local art associations. The couple joyfully retired to Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1980. There Janet worked as the lead docent and antiques archivist at the President's House at the College of William and Mary for many years. Husband Chris was the venerable "starter" for the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club at Colonial Williamsburg. He passed away in April of 2005. Janet continued to live independently until the fall of 2012, when at the age of 93, she moved to the Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem, NC to be close to her son and daughter-in-law, Kathryn. She was a devoted and supportive mother who encouraged her only child, Chris III, in his many athletic and scholarly activities. It is said that she often asked, "is he up from the pile¿yet?" She even allowed the "3rd" to strap his pole vault to the top of her 1965 Ford Mustang. When the 3rd left for West Point in June, 1970, she was proud of his willingness to serve the nation as his father before him. When he returned from the academy that fall, she nurtured his struggle to find a new purpose, and was joyful when he graduated from Medical College of Virginia in 1977 as a physician. Survivors include her son, Chris III, and her daughter-in-law, Kathryn of Winston-Salem, NC, with whom she had a close and special relationship, often referring to her as her daughter. Survivors include her granddaughter Meredith Lee Collie (Stephen) and great granddaughter Avery of Charlotte, NC; and granddaughter Stephanie Adair Lea (Jonathan) and great granddaughter Kennedy of Atlanta, GA. She has many nieces and nephews living in the metropolitan Washington DC area, the tidewater of Virginia, Florida and Arizona. The family is grateful for the kindness and dedication of all of her friends at Brookridge Retirement Community, especially the professional staff in Health Care. She never met a stranger. Her life was full and well lived by the strength of her faith. A private graveside service will be held at Forsyth Memorial Park, Winston-Salem, NC. Online condolences may be made to .
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