Eulogy for Janet

Created by Matthew 7 months ago

These are the words I spoke at Janet's funeral.

Janet was a brilliant academic - a wonderful influence on green and sustainable chemistry in the UK and far beyond (not my words but those of Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff). However, academic achievement can be bland and one-dimensional (just look around you). Janet was so much more, she was technicolour (well, mostly Janet green) and multidimensional. 

It was in 2010 when Janet breezed into Bath full of red hair, ideas and fun. We clicked immediately as we embarked on the longest, closest and most productive working relationship either of us ever enjoyed. I can genuinely say that there was never a cross word spoken between us. The fun we had and the creative intensity she sparked are irreplaceable. Thank you Janet for those times. 

Superficially, Janet was a mass of contradictions: warm but a little bit scary; ruthlessly organised but completely chaotic; extremely creative but, dare I say it, a little bit pedantic; open and charismatic, yet very private. At heart though there was no contradiction; just a simple honesty – she cared passionately about three things: people, science and natural justice.

Janet’s illness actually brought out the very best in her. She faced it on her own terms and, to continue the theme of contradictions, she actually seemed to blossom in that tough final phase of her life, although the courage that it must have taken to do so is beyond me. Janet took particular pleasure in growing enough produce to feed the five thousand and was never happier than when preparing it to share with friends. As an appropriate tribute, I look forward to the cider orchard we will plant and tend in her memory. Obviously, without Janet’s guidance, we will choose the wrong varieties of apples, we will plant them in the wrong place, we will misuse the cider press, and we will ferment the juice in blissful ignorance of the precise biochemical processes taking place. In spite of this we will have fun, we will get a little bit tipsy, and every year we will say “bollocks” to the world for taking her from us. She will approve.  

Standing here today, I feel entirely inadequate in trying to distill Janet’s essence into a few minutes but, having been forced to reflect, here’s what I think. Janet’s unique ability was to see talent and potential in people with complete objectivity and then to inspire self confidence. She didn’t do this with sugar-coated compliments but with analytical clarity and with absolute conviction. The power of her personality was such that when she believed in you, others knew it – and also believed. This is something very special that she gave to so many people. To all of you touched in this way by Janet, let her legacy be that you remember why she believed in you. Don’t lose that self-confidence and continue to make the most of the opportunities it affords. 

For myself, on behalf of all those who would have liked the opportunity to say things their own way, and on behalf of family and friends who could not be here today, just a simple final message. Goodbye Janet - we will miss you terribly but thank you so much for all that you have given us.