Jan O’Dowd passed away peacefully on the evening of Nov. 6, 2020 holding the hand of her devoted husband, Don, and surrounded by her loving family.
Janet was born in Olympia, Washington on July 22, 1929 the only daughter of Myra (Lancaster) and Ed Fithian. She attended Fidalgo Elementary School (2 rooms) in Anacortes, Washington and graduated from Anacortes High School co-valedictorian with her brother, Bob. At the University of Washington she graduated with a B.S. in psychology in 1951 as valedictorian and President’s Medalist, the university’s highest undergraduate award. After graduation she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for study in Great Britain. On the ship to England with a cohort of Fulbright scholars she met Don a fellow Fulbright awardee who she would marry 2 years later. She was the energetic, intelligent, witty and devoted partner of Don for 67 years.
Jan was a doer. During her whole adult life she volunteered for work in non-profit and charitable organizations. After starting their married life in Cambridge, Mass. they moved to Middletown, Conn. and then on to Rochester, Mich. with 3 small children and a 4th on the way. Oakland University was in its second year. Jan contributed greatly to the growth and development of the new university first by assisting in recruiting faculty and fostering a community including faculty and their families, staff and students and for 10 years she embraced all the duties expected of a president’s wife. After living 5 years in Albany, N. Y., at the University of Alaska in the 1980s she repeated the role of president’s wife. In 1991 the O’Dowds retired to Santa Barbara. For the past 15 years she has lived a Valle Verde where she has many friends and enjoyed a good life.
Devoted to all forms of theater and dance, Jan was instrumental in establishing two professional equity theater companies, the Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, MI and the Capital Repertory Company in Albany, NY. Both of which are still in existence after respectively 54 and 38 years. In Santa Barbara Jan enjoyed and supported the Ensemble Theatre among many theater and dance organizations. Of particular importance was theater and dance at UCSB where she rarely missed a performance and was particularly dedicated to the Launch Pad theater program. Jan saved well over a thousand play bills from almost every theater performance she attended over the past 60 years meticulously cataloged and stored in her files.
Jan was an enthusiastic participant and tireless contributor to the VISTAS Lifelong Learning organization. She both offered and took many classes, recruited members and served at various times as curriculum chair, vice president and co-president. Among other groups she spent many hours working to support Planned Parenthood and the League of Women Voters.
Jan is survived by her husband, Don, her 4 children, Dan, Diane, Jim and John, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
“May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”
In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to Planned Parenthood; UCSB Dept. of Theater and Dance; and Vistas Lifelong Learning. Arrangements entrusted to Welch-Ryce-Haider Funeral Chapels.