Rev. Janet Cook
Holmes Dennard, a lay minister and resident of Eagle's Trace retirement community, died on October 22, 2012 at Vitas hospice at Memorial Hermann Hospital at Memorial City in Houston, Texas. She was, as she would have said, "87 years young." Her life was one of service to God and God's people-first and foremost, her family, but also to many beyond it, including individuals suffering from cancer and their families and her community at Eagle's Trace Senior Living in Houston.
Born Janet Rose Cook on June 6, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, she was the second child of Rev. Dr. Gaines Monroe Cook and Edith Rose Cook. Janet grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland and graduated from Lakewood High School in June 1943. She displayed an early talent for music, playing first chair oboe in the concert band and cymbals in the marching band. Music became a lifelong avocation.
Janet earned her Bachelor of Science degree in institutional management at Cornell University's College of Home Economics in Ithaca, NY, in June 1947. Three months later on September 6, she married Walter Laney Holmes at her parents' home in Indianapolis, IN. She returned with him to Cornell where he completed his degree in chemical engineering and she worked as a staff dietician with residential halls at Cornell.
Following Walter's graduation in June 1950, the young couple moved to Houston where he began a 32-year career with Shell Chemical and later Shell Oil Company. Janet and Walter traveled the United States with Shell, moving from Texas to Southern California in 1955, to Connecticut in 1963, and finally back to Texas and Houston in 1970. As did so many women immediately following World War II, Janet focused on raising their three children -two daughters and a son, and volunteering for a number of organizations, including the Girl Scouts and the churches the family attended wherever they lived. Janet's more-than-50-year membership in PEO sustained her as she uprooted and reestablished her household, enabling her husband to take on new assignments. The family enjoyed camping and spent summer vacations exploring state and national parks on the East and West Coasts. Janet and Walter were married for 48 years.
Volunteerism ultimately led to a career outside her home. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1971 and after recovery from surgery, Janet began helping others with the disease. She not only described, but also displayed her personal experience with cancer in a video on the subject. This work led to a full-time position as director of volunteer services at St. Joseph Hospital, Houston, from 1975 to 1978. During these years, she also completed 400 hours of clinical pastoral education.
Janet then became a patient care coordinator at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston where she worked for 17 years, assisting hundreds of patients and their families who came to Anderson from around the world. In recognition of her efforts, the University of Texas System Cancer Center bestowed on her its Outstanding Employee Award in June 1983 and again acknowledged her service when she retired in 1995. Janet also volunteered for many years for CanCare of Houston, Inc., a nonprofit that pairs cancer survivors with current cancer patients and their families to provide emotional support. She further served on CanCare's Board of Church Representatives for 15 years.
Upon retiring from Anderson, Janet became a licensed minister with the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. In doing so, she followed in the footsteps of her father who was a minister with the Disciples and served as executive secretary of the International Convention of Christian Churches and president of Christmount Christian Assembly in Black Mountain, NC. As a licensed minister, Janet spent 11 years as associate minister for pastoral care at Bethany Christian Church in Houston. She was also a longtime elder at Bethany and a member of the choir. She later sang with the Tallowood Baptist Church Adult Choir.
Janet transferred her ministry from Bethany to Eagle's Trace shortly after moving to the retirement community in December 2005. There she helped Pastoral Ministries establish a weekly, non-denominational Christian worship service and launch "Celebration of Life" services to honor and remember people within the community who have passed on. She regularly served as a worship leader during the weekly service and was a member of the community's Interfaith Advisory Council. Janet also assisted with the implementation of and then participated in the Community of Hope, which offers group and individualized support to residents. Throughout her life, Janet said she strove to "listen with a caring heart." Eagle's Trace Spiritual Director and Pastoral Ministries Manager Mary Kate Kell says of her, "Janet was God's partner in ministry."
In addition to her ministry and music, Janet enjoyed traveling, touring Europe and Alaska with family and friends. She also painted, rode horseback, and was actively involved in Toastmistress International.
Janet had a second marriage to Fred Roy Dennard from June 1997 until he passed away on July 7, 2001. She was predeceased by her first husband, Walter, and by her parents and beloved brother, Gaines Monroe Cook, Jr.
Janet is survived by her children, Edith Holmes Snyder, Walter Laney Holmes, Jr., and Merry Holmes Vann, DVM, their spouses, David Fleming Snyder, Esq. and Anne Simpson Holmes, and her sister-in-law, Marge Cook Patterson. She also loved and enjoyed her six grandchildren-Kathryn Holmes Johnson, James Walter Holmes, Richard Holmes Snyder, Esq., Sarah Dickinson Fleming Snyder, Caitlin Rose Vann, and Will Allen Vann-and one great grandson, Matthew Remmert Johnson.
A memorial service celebrating Janet's life will be held at Bethany Christian Church, 3223 Westheimer, Houston, 77098, on Saturday, October 27, at 11:00 am. The family will greet friends at a visitation at Bethany on Friday, October 26, from 6:00-8:00 pm. Eagle's Trace will remember and honor her at its "Celebration of Life" service on Wednesday, October 24. Inurnment will be at Mountain View Memorial Park, Black Mountain, NC. Wilson Family Funeral Service will be assisting the family with all arrangements in North Carolina. Gifts in Janet's honor may be sent to CanCare's Memorial Fund, 9575 Katy Freeway, Suite 248, Houston, TX 77024.