Janet Wyand Bennem


Janet Wyand Bennem, 93, of Greece, New York, passed away on February 21st, peacefully in her sleep. Visitation will be held from 10 am until 12 noon on Saturday, March 2nd at Fowler Funeral Home, 340 West Avenue, Brockport, NY, with the service beginning shortly after 12.

Janet was born in Rochester on March 24th, 1925. She graduated from Madison High in 1941, a member of the French, German, Latin, and National Honor Societies. Throughout her high school years she was also an avid swimmer and horseback rider, riding in formation at the Rochester Armory.

Janet was a passionate idealist as well as a devoted mother, and anyone who met her quickly discovered her aptitude for noticing little details and embracing big ideas. An early proponent of historic preservation, an advocate for social justice, and an ardent supporter of the ecumenical movement, Janet combined these enthusiasms during her time as a Deacon and Elder at Ogden Presbyterian Church. Among the speakers she brought to her congregation was famed organizer Saul Alinsky, who led the fight for minority hiring at Kodak and Xerox, and Georgiana Sibley, who as President of the Rochester Area Council of Churches was a mediator on this issue.

Janet's life was turned upside down when her eldest son Peter (Navy, Seaman Apprentice) was in a motorcycle accident, becoming comatose from anesthesia overdose during surgery. For three long years she advocated for his care, engaging in an epistolary war with the VA until his death at age 21 in 1978.

Moving from Ogden in the aftermath of Peter's death, Janet was able to form a unique community in nearby Brockport with her boarding house for college students. Janet's unconquerable optimism and wry humor became a fixture at SUNY Brockport, where she served as a reserve desk clerk in the college library, her signature laugh recognized by staff, faculty, and students alike.

During her many years of retirement, Janet would continue her life-long love affairs with gardening and book collecting, and her devotion to politics, culture, and the arts. Inspired from an early age by the artistic and scientific interests of her older siblings, Eugene ("Genie" d. 2004) and Laura ("Laurie" d. 2015), Janet would go on to create a world fueled by love and curiosity. Today, her surviving children Amy (daughter Casey), Seth (wife Cynthia, children Monica, Ben, & Savannah) and Christopher (wife Lisa, children Ian, Natalie, & Julian) are grateful to have had the chance to grow up in that world—and so happy that she was able to live long enough to meet little Isla, her first great-grandchild (daughter of Monica).

The family wishes to extend their thanks to Darlene Henshaw and the staff at the Unity Villages & Cottages for their attentive care and community. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to WXXI (www.wxxi.org) or the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org