Janice Kelley

Obituary of Janice E. Kelley

Janice E. Kelley died peacefully on September 3, at the age of 81, after a long illness. She had hoped to live long enough to cast her vote against Donald Trump in the upcoming election, but fate denied her that opportunity. Janice was born August 25, 1939, in New York, N.Y., to Edward L. Shaw and Catherine A. (Tuckey) Shaw, and baptized at St. Frances de Chantal Church in the Bronx, N.Y. From an early age, she was a lover of nature and animals, and the water. She often recalled with pleasure her early years exploring the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx, which was largely undeveloped back then. Some of her favorite memories involved going out on the waters around New York City with her family on her father’s motorboat, and spending time with her father in his basement wood shop. She was delighted when her younger sister, Catherine, was born, about a month after she turned 11, because she’d been sad being an only child when all her friends had brothers and sisters to play with. Janice attended Cathedral High School in Manhattan, N.Y., where her academic performance earned her a New York State Regent’s Scholarship and acceptances into several very high-profile colleges and universities. She chose to attend The Cooper Union in the East Village of Manhattan, N.Y., where she studied art and architecture. During her Cooper Union years, she met and married her first husband, Dan Lobel, and gave birth to their son, Damon. After college, Janice worked at the studio of high-end custom jewelry designer Margaret Moore, where she learned the art of jewelry-making and discovered that she really enjoyed selling jewelry. Her marriage to Dan ended, but Janice stayed in the East Village. While living there, she got to see folk musicians who would later become stars of the 1960s music scene while they were still doing the coffee shop circuit, and she met a couple of ‘60s counterculture figures long before they became household names. She also attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and had the privilege of hearing Martin Luther King, Jr., make his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in person. But how did Janice get to Maine? She and her second husband, Patrick F. Kelley, knew they wanted to have children, but they didn’t want to have them in New York City. Each of them had been to Maine at different times knew they loved the state, so they decided to leave New York and head north. Janice, Patrick, and Damon packed up all their worldly goods in “a pickup truck and a Volkswagen Beetle with no reverse gear,” as Janice told her kids, and left for Maine in 1967. For some reason her children were never quite able to figure out, Janice and Patrick fell in love with Waldo County, where they worked with real estate agent Walter Wood to find the home of their dreams. “Walter drove us all over the county,” Janice said, “but we never found anything quite right, until the very last piece of land he showed us.” It turned out that land, a five-acre parcel on what is now called the Upper Oak Hill Road in Swanville, was about an eighth of a mile from Walter’s home. Janice guessed Walter wanted to make sure they were decent people before showing them a property that would make them next-door neighbors. After they moved to Swanville, Patrick and Janice started a small design-and-build firm, and Janice gave birth to their daughter, JaneAMara, and their son, Michael. She designed the houses and Patrick, a very skilled carpenter, built them. When she was not in her home office doing the work she loved, she enjoyed gardening and taught her children how to plant seeds and pull weeds—and to love watching things grow and eating foods fresh from the garden. Janice and Patrick divorced in 1974. After the divorce, Janice and the children moved to the town of Washington, Maine, where she became active in the local and county Democratic party and the movement to shut down the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant. She taught her children that political activism and civic involvement are crucial and encouraged them to meet and talk to politicians at the local, state, and national levels so they would never be intimidated by talking to powerful people. Janice and her children moved back to their Swanville home in 1981. In 1985, Janice opened a secondhand store on lower Main Street in Belfast that would eventually become Azure Dragonfly, the metaphysical shop for which she was best known. For nearly 30 years, Azure Dragonfly served as a safe space for spiritual explorers and a place where people could get a taste of music, jewelry, and rock crystals and gemstones from all around the world, as well as locally made handcrafted items. She was also well known for the Navajo and Zuñi jewelry and fetishes (small figurines that represent animals) she sold at her shop, which she bought from a woman who went to the reservations and purchased the pieces directly from the makers. It’s hard to put into words how much the store meant, not just to Janice and her family but to the people who regularly shopped and visited her there. Janice’s friendship, compassion, understanding, and guidance helped people of all ages from Waldo County and far beyond. After her retirement in 2005, Janice enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren and seeing them grow from tiny babies into amazing, intelligent, strong, and creative women. When Janice’s oldest granddaughter, Ali, moved to Maine in the late 2000s, she was delighted to meet and get to know her great-grandchildren as well. The family wishes to thank Lisa Kushner, David Smith, and Linda Garson-Smith for their extraordinary assistance and efforts that enabled Janice to stay in her home until almost the end of her life; and Adrianna Teresa Sciortino Culver for paying Janice’s final expenses. In addition, the doctors, nurses, and discharge planning team at Waldo County General Hospital were incredibly helpful and kind during her final hospital stays; and the Riposta Funeral Home family made taking care of Janice’s final details from the other side of the country so much easier than it could have been. Janice is survived by her sister, Catherine A. (Shaw) Leahy (also known by her pen name, Kate Bernadette Benedict) and her husband, John Leahy, of New York, N.Y.; her son, Damon Lobel of Florida and Thailand, her daughter, JaneAMara “JaneA” Kelley of Seattle, Wash., and her son, Michael Colin Patrick Kelley of County Kerry, Ireland; four grandchildren, Alexandria “Ali” Wilson and Clara Kelley of Belfast, Annica “Ana” Kelley of Northport, and TigerLily Kelley of Port Townsend, Wash.; and three great-grandchildren, Cameron Chauvin, Faythe Wilson, and Kenny Wilson, all of Belfast. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no funeral. Burial took place Sept. 9 at Rainbow’s End Cemetery in Orrington, and arrangements were made by Riposta Funeral Home in Belfast. Janice’s daughter, JaneA, is planning to host a virtual celebration of her life at a date to be determined. If you would like to participate, please email her at kelley.janea@gmail.com. Janice was a Buddhist, and all appropriate death prayers and meditations, dedications of merit, and pujas were performed by the monks, nuns, and sangha at Sakya Monastery in Seattle, Wash. If you would like to do something to honor Janice’s memory, she had a special place in her heart for The Game Loft, so please make a donation to that organization, either by mail at 78A Main Street, Belfast ME 04915, or online at thegameloft.org. She loved flowers, and especially irises, so plant some irises in your garden and, when they bloom, think of her.
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