Remembering Jan Stauber by Alexian Gregory, BSI
Janice (“Jan”) Carol Stauber was born on 29 November 1943 in Newark, NJ, the second of 4 children born to Theodore and Gertrude Stauber. She had an older brother, Donald, a younger brother Richard and a younger sister, Kathe.
Jan was brought up in Verona, NJ in a house purchased by her parents one year before her birth. She went to the Forest Avenue Elementary School one block away from her home. She then went to Verona High School from which she graduated in 1961.
She attended Westminster College in Pennsylvania. This Presbyterian college was where she broke from her Presbyterian faith. She would not accept its doctrine that everyone is predestined for either heaven or hell regardless of whatever good or evil they committed in their lifetime. She graduated in 1965.
Jan received her Masters in counseling from Montclair State College in 1977. She taught for some 17 years in Verona at the F.N. Brown elementary school. Her secondary job was working at Turning Point, an outpatient facility for those with drug/alcohol problems.
Jan was a very gifted drug and alcohol counselor. She was a highly sensitive person who could “read” people and understand them on a very deep level with few if any obvious clues. I witnessed many examples of this preternatural gift which almost never failed her. Her use of this arcanely derived knowledge helped her enormously in guiding her clients to clean and sober lives.
In the mid-1980s Jan left education and studied computer programming at the prestigious and very demanding Chubb Institute. She graduated with flying colors and was subsequently employed as a computer programmer. But after a few years of this she felt very dissatisfied. She needed contact with people and not machines. Her interaction with people energized her.
Jan found work as a Substance Abuse Counselor at Roxbury (NJ) Middle School. After a few years there she transferred to Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Clifton, NJ. Here she worked as a Student Assistance Counselor for some 15 years. Her students respected and loved her. Many students loved come down to the office to spend time with her and find great comfort from their home and school problems. Not a few of them invented reasons just to see her.
On several occasions Jan received letters from these former students who had gone on to college and were now raising their own families. These letters emphatically and lovingly described the difference Jan had made in their lives by her attention and guidance. One particular instance comes to mind. A girl was distraught because she could not go to the junior prom. Why? Her family could not afford to buy her a dress. Jan bought her the blue dress that this girl had her wistful eyes on. The girl went to the Junior Prom. It was a happy ending the student never forgot.
Jan would have been the first to tell you that she was no intellectual. But she was extremely intelligent. She joined Mensa, the high IQ society which admits only those who have scored at or above the 98th percentile in a standardized intelligence test.
Like many great people Jan was very self-effacing. She could never understand why people marveled at her counselor skills, nor could she understand how she qualified for Mensa.
Jan served Mensa well in a number of capacities: as local secretary (president) of Northern NJ Mensa; as a proctor in administering IQ tests to prospective members of Mensa; on various Regional Gathering committees; and on one (National) Annual Gathering Committee.
On 21 August 1984 Jan and I had our first date. In September of 1986 I moved in with her to live in the house in which she grew up. On 2 July 1988 we became engaged on our third trip together in Avebury England under an ancient tree. On 7 June 1989 we were married in our Verona home.
Jan loved to travel. The world was her treasure chest she often explored looking for gems. In the course of her life she visited 30 countries. When we began our joint travels starting with a trip to England and Wales in 1985 Jan was an Anglophile. She enjoyed seeing the British countryside, churches, quaint villages, etc. She took especial delight in seeing sheep in rural settings. Jan even took to collecting sheep in the form of sweaters, T-shirts, and stuffed animals.
Jan and I visited 22 countries together. We traveled from Iceland to China, from the USSR to Egypt and from Turkey to Sweden. But after we went to France together for the first time, Jan’s “loyalties” changed. She went from anglophilia to francophilia. She loved everything about France—food, people, sights. Visiting France never became old for her. Each time she went there her batteries were recharged. This was never truer than in the month after she was diagnosed.
Family was very important to Jan. She loved organizing our annual Christmastime dinners when her siblings would come over and we’d feast and exchange gifts. Jan combined this love of family with travel. She took at a few trips to France with them, and one trip to China. On one of her French trips the Stauber clan biked through Burgundy stopping at numerous local vineyards to improve Franco-American relations and to courteously sample the local wines.
Jan had no interest in Sherlock Holmes before I came into her life. In May 1984, a few months before we began dating, I was scheduled to give a talk on Sherlock Holmes at Northern NJ Mensa’s Regional Gathering. Jan came to hear my talk, not because she had any interest in the subject, but because she feared I would be addressing an empty room. After all, she reasoned, who would go to a talk on Sherlock Holmes of all things? Jan arrived late and there wasn’t an empty seat in the room!
She grew to love Sherlock Holmes and become active in the Sherlockian world. She was a founder of the Baskerville Bash, the alternate dinner to the annual BSI event in January. She performed many roles for the Bash, but her absolute favorite was performing as a Sherlette.
The Sherlettes were a group of ladies, (and occasional men) organized by Jane Hinckley. They performed rock and roll songs whose lyrics had been changed to Sherlockian themes. Jan loved getting up in front of an audience and making them laugh and smile. Jan usually referred to the Sherlettes as “a bunch of old broads having a good time.”
In 1997 she presented a very well-received talk at Autumn in Baker Street entitled “A Pin, A Cork, A Card.” It analyzed Stapleton as a lepidopterist (and was scientific and informative). But most of all, it was funny.
In 1998, along with me, she was appointed as a Director of Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers of Edgewater, NJ. Jan loved this role. She performed many functions as a Director, but one of the most notable ones was her designing of the games to be played at our meetings twice a year. She also enjoyed leading our group in Sherlockian songs.
Jan combined her love of Sherlock Holmes with her love of children in a unique and important way. Each year Jan would borrow my Inverness, deerstalker, a pipe, magnifying glass, some Sherlockian plush dolls etc. Then she would go to the 7th and 8th grades in Woodrow Wilson Middle School and pretend to be Holmes himself.
She would “study” various children under her lens and make “deductions” about them. Then she’d give a talk on Holmes, Doyle and the Victorian world. The children listed with rapt attention. There was no whispering, yawning, or mischief. Jan did this in conjunction with the English teachers who were studying a Holmes story. I believe that the particular adventure was the Red-Headed League.
She did this each year she worked in that school, about 15 years in all. So many hundreds of students became interested in Holmes as a direct result of Jan’s engaging presentation.
When the school designed a poster to encourage reading, it showed Jan as Holmes reading the Canon!
In 2004 the Beacon Society, a scion devoted to introducing young people to Sherlock Holmes, presented its first Beacon Award. It was given to Jan in honor of her many years of addressing those 7th and 8th graders. I was told that when the committee had to vote on the first honoree, it was unanimously for Jan.
Jan had a very strong artistic/creative side. She learned to make beautiful objects from stained glass. She was very proficient at needlework, even its most difficult demanding, and unforgiving variant—counted cross-stitching.
But the greatest expression of her artistry was in our garden. Jan spent countless hours there under a blazing hot sun planting, transplanting, weeding and watering. “I love getting dirty in the garden!” she would say with that broad smile on her face under her floppy straw hat. Many were the times that I witnessed neighbors stopping by to compliment Jan on her horticulture.
In January of 2003 Jan was diagnosed with stomach cancer and given a maximum of 18 months to live. She flatly refused to accept this. In addition to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy Jan embarked on a dedicated course of self-healing. She did various physical exercises, meditation, guided imagery, affirmations (telling herself out loud that she was getting better), aromatherapy, and massage therapy, and hypnotherapy.
All of these activities did, indeed, make her feel good about herself. This boosted her immune system immeasurably. So instead of a mere 18 months, she lived healthfully and energetically for nearly three years. People were absolutely amazed when she told them she had cancer, so “normal” was she in appearance and so energetic in manner.
Jan died peacefully on 7 October 2005 in our Verona home that she loved so much.
In accordance with her specific wishes I deposited most of her ashes in the Seine. I buried a smaller portion in L’Esplanade des Invalides, that wonderful park near our Paris apartment. Small portions of her ashes were also buried under the tree in Avebury where I proposed to her. And another portion are now under the magnolia tree in front of our house. She is in those places she loved most —Paris, Avebury and Verona.
This self-effacing and incredibly modest woman was posthumously honored with several Sherlockian obituaries: two in Britain, one in France, one in Denmark, and some in the US.
I lost the very best friend I ever had, but I continue to celebrate the 21 wonderful years we had together. She was very much the best and wisest woman I have ever known.