From the first day Janie Dziekanowski stepped into the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma her bright personality and sweet spirit made a big impression on those around her.
That impression continues to linger with those who knew her best and Day Center Director Karlie Harper said she doesn’t want Janie’s name and the impact she made on others to slip silently away now that she has passed.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, an open memorial service for Janie will be held at Emmanuel Baptist Church, located at 120 Veterans Blvd. "I think that that’s worth holding a memorial service — that it's worth coming together to say ‘This is so holy and relevant and we need more of this in our world,’" Harper said.
Distinguished by her love for brightly colored clothing, rock n’ roll music and fancy jewelry, it was not long after she began coming around the Grace Center that Harper and all of the clients there began looking forward to seeing Janie’s face each day.
"She was just always so positive, even when I first met her," Harper said. "She was homeless and living at the Salvation Army and she was still positive and up-beat — she just never doubted that things would work out for her."
As a former member of the U.S. Navy and a breast cancer survivor, Janie told Harper of her struggles and her triumphs, but Harper said she never knew how she ended up homeless.
Janie would come to the Grace Center with a gallon sized zip-lock bag packed full of brackets she had made and she would distribute them to the clients there. "Once she got to know someone she would make something specific to them," Harper said.
However, Janie never asked for anything in return. Things eventually did work out for her and she was able to move into her own apartment, but she still continued to visit those at the Grace Center, Harper said.
"I know that she came to the day center some days only because she was lonely and would try to lift the spirits of other lonely hurting souls," Harper said.
While Janie and her daughter were estranged, she remained close with her two granddaughters, who lived with her daughter’s ex-husband and would show those at the Grace Center photos like a "proud grandmother."
"She loved to talk about her granddaughters and she was just over the moon for them," Harper said.
On Monday, Feb. 10, Harper said she received a call from Janie’s church informing her that she had passed away. However, the circumstances surrounding her death are unknown.
At the time, Harper said it was thought that there would be no funeral held because no one would come — but Harper said she refused to accept that idea and believes Janie should be remembered for the difference she made in the lives of those who knew her.
"I think that anyone can make a big difference and I think Janie is proof of that. She came here and she used what gifts she had and she used what she had available to her to try to make an impact on the people around her," Harper said. "I think she is just a wonderful example of doing what you can do to make a difference in someone else’s life."
Harper said anyone is welcome to attend the memorial service on Sunday. "I hope that some people can make some time to come out and hold some space for her and honor her life."