Janet Presser

Obituary of Janet Miriam Presser

          Gracious, trusted, amazing perseverance, animal lover, friend to all, charming, the queen, tremendous chef, wine lover, tireless, optimistic, stylish, respected, great sense of humor, enthusiastic traveler, professional, physically fit, sincere, hospitable, welcoming, the real deal,— the accolades could go on — for Janet Miriam Presser. With peace and dignity she passed away Dec. 14 at age 74 in her beloved home, with family and friends lovingly by her side.

          Diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in 1987, she was considered cured until a metastasis was detected in her lung 9 years ago. Janet was a poster child for taking every treatment thrown at her with a "give me your best shot" enthusiastic fighting attitude and a smile. During that time, she amazed her doctors and medical staff with classy demeanor.

          Janet became a passionate fund-raiser for assisting others and helping find a cure for breast cancer by walking and garnering sponsorships for Avon Breast Cancer walks. Over the past few years she completed a three-day 60-mile walk, followed by five more walks which were each two days long, covering 39 miles each — all while undergoing cancer treatments, and in her 60’s and 70’s! She enlisted family and friends to join her, with her co-worker, Annette Kypreos remembering the fun Janet and her family made these walks and how during the weeks leading up to it, appreciating the training walks where they shared deep conversations and their love of animals (making sure to have a pocket full of treats for the dogs they met). 

          In her quiet yet professional manner, Janet made a great impact at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), where she worked for approximately 25 years. Former President Wayne Boss noted she was “a trusted and important member of the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic/Palo Alto Medical Foundation administrative team. She was known and respected for her attention and graciousness to patients, visitors and coworkers. Her kindness and ready smile will be greatly missed.” Current President Larry deGhetaldi stated, “She started work here in 1991 and hers became the face of the administration, and it was planned that way. Poise, maturity, wit, kindness and grace were the irrepressible elements of her character that became the essence of the team she joined.” And former Vice President Tom Hart expressed his gratitude of working with Janet, remembering in particular a complicated new project, with both of them having to learn about the intricacies of malpractice insurance. He said, “We slogged through it together, figured out a way to save on premiums and later could even laugh about certain aspects of our filing system.” Tom also recalled that in her everyday stylishness, one could always expect to find one of her signature butterfly pins positioned on her back shoulder.

          During retirement Janet continued to support work done at this medical facility by volunteering with the Sutter Philanthropy Society, helping to raise more than $1 million for causes including pediatric behavioral health, cancer care and survivorship. According to Shannon Brady, Director of Philanthropy at PAMF, “Even as Janet was undergoing cancer treatment, she chaired the auction committee and hosted events to help raise money to support the Cancer Care program at PAMF. Her quiet strength and elegance were an inspiration to all who worked with her and her humor and quick wit were only matched by her amazing sense of style. Janet was a true friend and could always be counted on.”

          Two other former co-workers, Optician Kevin Cutler and Vice President of
Finance, Glen Groves, touched on Janet’s ability to teach and lead in an understated manner, with Kevin explaining, “Janet was a great resource and sounding board in delicate social situations. She was an adept teacher and understood how to point out someone’s weak points and suggest solutions without anyone feeling hurt by what she said.” Glen pointed out, “I am sure she helped my popularity as she kept me organized and I learned some valuable lessons from her on how to multi-task and manage my calendar, with those lessons staying with me today.”

          Glen and his wife, Liz, had multiple opportunities to vacation with Janet and her husband Art to Belize, Italy and the wine country. It was on these trips that he learned what a fierce and real competitor Janet was, wanting to win all the silly card and table games they’d play on these trips, recalling an especially epic card game that lasted until 3 a.m. 

          Food and wine were one of Janet’s many passions. She gave inspiring dinner parties, enjoyed introducing neophytes to the pleasures and nuances of wine tasting and was always striving to perfect complicated recipes. One of her cooking highlights was meeting the owner, Chef Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville. When she said she was having trouble perfecting the restaurant’s famous chive/potato chip for the appetizer of custard cooked in a quail egg, he invited her to come to a morning prep at the restaurant. Jumping at the chance, and always wanting to look her stylish best, she arrived in open-toe sandals and was informed she could not be allowed in the kitchen with such footwear. Not to lose out on this valuable cooking lesson, she sent Art back to their hotel to retrieve the only closed-toes shoes they’d packed — his tennis shoes. With her great humor, she tromped around the restaurant kitchen in oversized shoes, learning to perfect the chive/potato chip. Even though style and personal presentation were of utmost importance to Janet, she was able to laugh at the sight of her in her husband’s footwear. Fellow co-worker and friend, Jacci Sterling pointed out that Janet loved to “share her talent for cooking, baking and entertaining in her beautifully artistic, cozy, inviting home with devoted husband, Art. We can all raise a glass of her favorite champagne in her honor.” (Champagne and truffle popcorn were her signature snacks for watching USC football games with her family.)

          One of the few things topping her culinary love was her love of animals. Her vegetarian diet was a reflection of this love, as was the extra-ordinary care given to the dogs and cats she and her husband rescued and adopted. She took near daily vigorous walks during lunch, with the only thing ever slowing her pace was the opportunity to stop and pet dogs or cats that came within range. She became friends with many of these pets’ owners who lived on her lunch-time walking route. 

          As Janet battled against cancer, she had two favorite sayings she kept nearby: “Life is tough, but I am tougher,” and, “If you’re going through hell, just keep walking.” She inspired so many not to give up, but to keep seeking and enduring treatments. In her final days at the hospital, while still battling, she had lines of visitors coming to see her. One day, while in the ICU, there were close to 40 people, all feeling — and knowing — that they were her closest friend. True to her gracious social skills, she cheerily chatted with each person, spending time asking about them, their families, their pets and laughing at shared memories. One of the nurses caring for her during these last days and witnessing the flood of friends stated, “How incredibly lucky you all were to have had someone like her in your lives. And for years! I feel lucky to have met her for just a very short while.”

          Janet was born to Arthur Lever and Miriam McWade on May 18, 1944 in Melrose, MA. She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Art Presser; her son Brian Thomas and his wife Rosalinda (two children Nathan and Dominique); her son Mathew Berault (his daughter Maddie); brother Gene Lever (wife Lynn) and precious cat Jax. She is pre-deceased by her daughter Monique Thomas and her sister Sandy Love.

          Her remains will be enshrined in a family vault at Hillside Memorial Park, in Los Angeles, where a service will be held on January 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm, followed by a southern Californian celebration of life. Please RSVP to Jeannie Presser at jplegalmanagement@gmail.com.  At her request she will be enshrined with her daughter Monique. Janet also asked that there be a celebration of life held at her home in the form of a Belizean deck party, which will be held on her birthday, May 18[A1] , 2019 please save the date. To express your condolences, share a memory or for updated service information, please visit www.pacificgardenschapel.com. You may also contact Jeannie Presser at the email listed above for updated service information.

          In lieu of flowers, donations to the Santa Cruz SPCA, 2685 Chanticleer Ave., Santa Cruz may be made in Janet’s name.