A graveside service was held Aug. 31 in Corvallis, Ore., for my longtime professional journalism colleague Janet Armantrout, who died the week before at her home in Livermore. She was 77.
Janet was the editor of The Independent, a Livermore newspaper she joined in 1964, a year after its founding and just after I started my newspaper career at the Chicago Tribune. We used to reminisce, not always favorably, about the days of typewriters and stiff necks when we held heavy rotary-dial phones to one ear as we typed out notes being phoned in by news sources.
According to an obituary in The Independent, Janet, at first, handled production for the paper, pasting ads and laying out the pages for printing. When she demonstrated her writing skills as well, the late Bob Several, then the newspaper's editor, asked Janet to cover local sports, rewrite press releases and do other editorial duties.
Eventually, she began covering the Livermore City Council, sitting in a back-row seat at the often-lengthy Monday night meetings on a regular basis until complications related to Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) kept her home-bound earlier this year.
I first met Janet at a Livermore community meeting shortly after my family and I moved to Pleasanton in 1987, where I had been transferred as the public relations director for a Sunnyvale-based corporation. Always on the lookout for freelance reporters and learning of my newspaper background, she asked me to cover several Pleasanton meetings, assignments that eventually led to me covering city meetings on a regular basis and giving me the opportunity to continue news writing.
I was also probably No. 1 on her list of frustrations as some of my stories were filed right on deadline. Traveling frequently, I would often write those stories on a plane while flying to Midwest or East Coast destinations, never worrying as much as she did over delays caused by weather or traffic.
Janet became a family hero when she managed to get tickets to a superstar country singer's concert. My daughter Jenny was a steadfast fan of Garth Brooks during her high school years. Knowing he was performing in San Jose, Jenny began her campaign to attend this nearly sold-out performance. These tickets were hard to come by, but Janet came to the rescue. Not only did she score tickets, but arranged for a meeting at Garth's pre-concert press conference. This kind gesture was typical of Janet's unassuming style.
Of course, when we launched the Pleasanton Weekly in January 2000, my freelancing days for The Independent ended, but Janet and I stayed friends, sitting together often as we covered the same city, civic and business meetings.
Janet was born on Aug. 13, 1942 in Salt Lake City, the third of seven siblings. Her family later settled in Corvallis, Ore., where she attended Corvallis High School and graduated from Oregon State University.
Her death, and the diagnosis itself, came as a surprise to many. Janet continued work until a week before her death, reviewing copy, preparing the community calendar and making editorial decisions while at home under daily care.
Responding to her death, Joan Seppala, owner and publisher of The Independent, said, "The pain of losing Janet after 55 years is great, both for me personally and for all who knew her in the community. Although reserved in many ways, when it came to editorial issues, Janet was decisive. She respected both sides of an issue, and was firm in what she thought was fair."
The family of Janet Armantrout has created a Life Tributes page to share memories through the McHenry Funeral Home in Corvallis. These can be sent by email to email@example.com.