Janet Wertz Colenda

Published in Virginia Gazette on Apr. 15, 2017

Janet Wertz Colenda
1919 - 2017

WINSTON SALEM - On April 13, 2017, Janet W. Colenda
found loving peace at the age of 97.

She was born on October 10, 1919 in Connellsville,
Pennsylvania. She was the second of six children born to
Flo Jean and Archibald (Archie) William Wertz. She was the
only surviving sibling at the time of her passing. The economic
hardships of the late 1920's and 30's led Janet's family to live
in several cities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They finally settled in Washington
DC, where she graduated from the District's
Eastern High School in 1937. During her
senior year of high school she was feature's writer and associate editor of the student
newspaper. Throughout her formative years she was an avid athlete, an accomplished
vocalist, a budding artist, and a caregiver to her siblings after her parents divorced. She
was deeply devoted to her faith, shaped by her involvement in youth activities in the
Presbyterian Church and by her mentor, Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall. Challenging
herself to explore opportunities beyond her imagination, Janet applied to and was
accepted into the second class of airline stewardesses for Pennsylvania Central
Airlines (PCA). Her "ship" was the venerable DC-3. She would regale family and friends
with numerous stories of "her" pilots, fellow stewardesses, passengers, and harrowing
adventures, including several crash landings. PCA eventually became part of United

On a flight from Washington DC to Norfolk she met her husband of 62 years,
Christopher C. Colenda, Jr., of Norfolk, Virginia, then a 1st Lieutenant, Infantry, the
United States Army. They were married on September 10, 1943, and within 4 months,
Chris left for the Italian Campaign, returning from Europe in 1946. While continuing his
service in the Army Reserves, Janet became a wonderful partner for Chris' career in
sales and management with the Corn Products/Best Food Company, now part of

Career stops included Norfolk, Richmond, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Chicago. Janet
pursued life long passions in music, art and her faith. She was a Deaconess in the
Presbyterian Church, a member of PEO, and active in chorale music and local art

The couple joyfully retired to Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1980. There Janet worked as the
lead docent and antiques archivist at the President's House at the College of William
and Mary for many years. Husband Chris was the venerable "starter" for the Golden
Horseshoe Golf Club at Colonial Williamsburg.

He passed away in April of 2005. Janet continued to live independently until the fall of
2012, when at the age of 93, she moved to the Brookridge Retirement Community in
Winston-Salem, NC to be close to her son and daughter-in-law, Kathryn. She was a
devoted and supportive mother who encouraged her only child, Chris III, in his many
athletic and scholarly activities. It is said that she often asked, "is he up from the pile
yet?" She even allowed the "3rd" to strap his pole vault to the top of her 1965 Ford
Mustang. When the 3rd left for West Point in June, 1970, she was proud of his
willingness to serve the nation as his father before him. When he returned from the
academy that fall, she nurtured his struggle to find a new purpose, and was joyful when
he graduated from Medical College of Virginia in 1977 as a physician.

Survivors include her son, Chris III, and her daughter-in-law, Kathryn of Winston-Salem,
NC, with whom she had a close and special relationship, often referring to her as her

Survivors include her granddaughter Meredith Lee Collie (Stephen) and great
granddaughter Avery of Charlotte, NC; and granddaughter Stephanie Adair Lea
(Jonathan) and great granddaughter Kennedy of Atlanta, GA. She has many nieces and
nephews living in the metropolitan Washington DC area, the tidewater of Virginia,
Florida and Arizona.

The family is grateful for the kindness and dedication of all of her friends at Brookridge
Retirement Community, especially the professional staff in Health Care. She never met
a stranger. Her life was full and well lived by the strength of her faith.

A private graveside service will be held at Forsyth Memorial Park, Winston-Salem, NC.

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