Cover photo for Janice Lee Lopez's Obituary
Janice Lee Lopez Profile Photo
1946 Janice 2018

Janice Lee Lopez

May 1, 1946 — May 31, 2018

Janice Lee Lopez
Lincoln, CA
Born: May 1, 1946
Died: May 31, 2018

Janice possessed a shining light and sparkling personality. One that even death cannot diminish. Janice was, for all who knew her, the picture of optimism and a beacon of hope. She was kind and giving to everyone including strangers. She helped make me, her husband, what I am today. She made me someone much better than I could have been or probably should have been. However, each of us provided the other with the missing piece that made us whole people capable of enjoying this life.
I will miss her till the day I die.

Janice led a colorful life. Some of it difficult, but all of it wondrous. Her art was her window to what she saw in life and an outlet for what she felt. Her art was more about color and texture than it was about form and content. It came exclusively from her inner self and was never planned. It was always about what she felt in the moment.

The Janice that I knew and loved sprung from a kalidascope of interesting people and events that existed before and after our meeting. I now want to share with you the back-story that created our Janice.

Janice grew up on Colonial Farms. Just after World War Two, the Robinson family purchased a 500 acre farm located in Kaolin Pennsylvania. Mrs. Robinson was a Raskob from the fabulously wealthy New York family that built the Empire State Building. There was an entire village of houses on the property that the Robinsons rented to hand-picked families that demonstrated leadership in the local community.

Since Janice's father was the local bank manager and was involved in a great many community organizations, he was invited to Colonial Farms. Only families with children would be invited to the farms. This was designed to give the children of the Robinsons a diverse group of peers to help them develop outside the rarified confines of the billionaire class. It also offered the guest children a storybook childhood replete with all of the trappings that big money afforded.

The Robinsons organized regular activities for the children such as plays, festivals, sleigh rides in the winter, horses and movie showings. Janice told me she loved being in the plays sponsored by the Robinsons on Colonial Farms. She liked being the star of the show. In some cases the Robinsons helped with the guest children's education. This enabled Janice to attend private schooling at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington Delaware, where she received excellent grades and developed good study habits that she later used in college.

As a child, Janice developed severe asthma. Her parents recognized that the dry air of her father's native New Mexico had great benefit for asthma sufferers. At age three, her parents moved Janice out to a relative's ranch, for perhaps a year. When she returned to Pennsylvania her asthma was gone. It stayed in remission for most of her life. The early memories of New Mexico stayed with her through adulthood and she developed a lasting fondness for the South West.

At 19, Janice met the highly charismatic Joseph Chambers Blackman Jr. Joe was from a moneyed Maryland family and although he was a rogue at heart, Janice nonetheless saw the good in him. Janice's parents, however, saw him for what he was and forbade Janice from seeing him. Janice was a strong willed girl with an endless wanderlust. At twenty she ran away with Joe, married and started a family.

"Little Joe", Joseph Chambers Blackman III, was born in April, 1967. Janice was a stay at home mom while Joe Jr. worked and supported the family in the fledgling computer industry. After a few years of living and working in Delaware, the Blackmans, decided to make their fortunes out west. They moved to Phoenix, Arizona and began looking for work.

Unfortunately work was hard to come by for computer programmers in those years, so they agreed to work a private Amethyst mine deep in the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix. They had a donkey named Jenny and a small cabin at the end of several miles of hiking. They made their living pulling the semi-precious formations from the mountain and loading them onto Jenny for transport to Phoenix. This was hard work and with a small child, became too much to continue. They moved back to Phoenix where Janice began work at Motorola producing semi-conductor chips for the upcoming electronics industry. By the time little Joe was six, Janice had her fill of Joe Jr. She took little Joe and moved back home with her parents who were then living in Landenberg, PA.

With her experience at Motorola she quickly got a job at Hewlett Packard in Avondale, PA. Here she assembled sensors for gas chromatographs. I arrived at HP, Avondale a short time later, we met and the rest is history. I knew instantly she was the one for me. We dated for a time and rapidly became inseparable. We got a loan from her father's bank and bought a house in Kemblesville, Pennsylvania. We were deeply in love and captivated with lust. Janice was the sun and the moon, and my reason for living.

We lived happily in Kemblesville with Little Joe for several years, saved our money and flourished. We took many road trips to Florida and at one point, we took a month off from work and circled the country in our van. On this trip, we learned that there were endless possibilities for our future. Then came another one of those Janice wanderlust moments. At her urging, we both decided to take life by the horns and have an adventure. It wouldn't be easy, but we were young and full of optimism. Well … mostly Janice was.

We sold our Kemblesville home, loaded a truck and hit the road. The management at HP Avondale where we worked, gave us every expectation that we would have jobs waiting for us at the HP Roseville facility, but when we got there, the story had changed. Here we were with a truck full of our belongings, no job and nowhere to live. I might have panicked except for Janice's eternal optimism. With her, the whole situation seemed manageable. We were taken in by her Uncle Eddy and Aunt Theresa in Roseville until we could find jobs and an apartment. Janice found work quickly at a microfilm company and I became a technician at Digital Biomedical Corporation. We moved to a Foothill Farms apartment and began living our lives in earnest. We agreed to put each other through college since neither of us had that opportunity in our youth.

Janice quit her job and took journalism, full-time at the local college. She got straight 'A's and absolutely loved the experience. She worked on the school newspaper as a reporter. At school she was exposed to new ideas and interesting people. This opened her world. I was enormously proud of her. These were happy times, full of promise, as we explored our new reality. Janice made a great many life-long friends during this period. We saved our money the best we could and by 1982 we owned five acres in Rescue. Within a year of purchasing the property we began building our home together.

Building the house was a three year ordeal of me working full time while Janice continued her college studies. We bought a very tired 1961 Sterns 40 foot mobile home and parked it on the property while we built the house. This was our only accommodations for at least three years. It was cold and drafty and it shook when the wind blew, but we were young and it was home. These were long hard days that I will always cherish. I loved Janice and Joe more than can be imagined. We were sharing the adventure together. I will always remember Janice holding a board while studying for a test while Joe and I nailed it into place. I knew virtually nothing about building houses when we started. We studied books, as there was no internet then. We designed the structure, submitted plans, started building and learned as we went on. Cost of supplies came directly from my paycheck, month to month. With Janice I felt there was nothing we couldn't accomplish.

By 1983 we realized there was something we had forgotten. So we traveled to Reno and got married at a little chapel on Labor Day. As I recall the couple in line to get married after us was an Elvis impersonator and a club dancer. After college Janice got a good paying job, allowing me to quit and go back to school, full-time. This is a period where we both worked long hours punctuated with vacations, parties and good friends. Much of this time seems a blur. Tragedy struck in the middle of this period when Joe was killed in an automobile accident in 1988 at the age of 21. Janice was grief stricken for years. Frankly, I wasn't sure she was going to recover. In fact, she was never really the same after this. Joe's death had taken its toll on her endless optimism.

Slowly she began to enjoy life again, just not in the same way. We had some wonderful friends and the support of family. They showed that we could move on from tragedy. We began taking annual trips to Hawaii. Janice loved Hawaii. When we weren't traveling, we were in the company of good friends. We worked hard to build a life without Joe. When Joe was small, we would make a big deal of Halloween. Janice never lost her fascination with this holiday and we would dress-up every year for parties.

After retirement we both got the urge to try something new. We always liked the desert so we sold the Rescue house and moved to Albuquerque. The scenery was wonderful, but it was a bit colder than we had hoped and very windy. After only a few years we decided to make another change. We strongly considered moving back to California, but by this time my mother was suffering from dementia In Georgia so we decided to head East. Georgia was difficult for us. We didn't fit in well with the locals and the food was all wrong for our liking. While there, we witnessed the death of both my youngest sister and my mother. After my mother's death it became clear what was next.

We decided to move back to our beloved California, so we packed up yet again and crossed the country. We arrived in Lincoln and decided to settle down … living out our golden years. We had some great times here, but they were cut tragically short by Janice's illness. In the months I cared for Janice, I never felt so close to her or loved her more than I did then. We both wanted more time together, and we deserved more time, but it wasn't to be. You are the sun and the moon and I will miss you forever.

Mike Cherniski
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