We were all devastated after the death of my mother-in-law, Mary Isabell Fisk Gonzalez. Most especially sorrowful was my father-in-law, Julio. He was very lonely, but learned how to carry on with his life by working out at the gym and playing bridge a few times each week. He slowly replaced his grief with a determination to make the best of his new situation, but it was always obvious that he was very lonely even with family attempting to fill his void. Little did we know that in the twilight of his life he would meet a lovely woman named Janell who would help him to be happy once again.
Sixteen years ago he introduced us to this beautiful and vibrant woman who would become a new member of our family. Janell was a most interesting person. She was born in El Dorado, Arkansas but spent much of her youth living in east Texas during a time when the discovery of oil in the area was booming and famous performers came to her neck of the woods to entertain the men and women working in that industry. Her beauty, outgoing personality and kindness made her an attractive young women indeed. She soon married a World War II veteran and over time gave birth to four beautiful children, Frances, Ann, Don, and Scott. She would be a proud mother for the remainder of her life, always regaling anyone who would listen with descriptions of how bright, successful and wonderful they had all become.
Janell and her children lived for a time in Paris where she soaked in the history and art of that romantic city. She collected paintings and antiques and explored every corner of the City of Light. She enjoyed her time there and lit up with joy whenever she spoke of her adventures. She enjoyed the markets and the cooking and became quite the chef in her own right.
Long after her children were grown and she had spent years as a single woman, Janell and my father-in-law met each other at a dance. She was such a strikingly beautiful vision with her youthful appearance and engaging smile that it is little wonder that he noticed her and fell for her quickly. Just after the infamous hurricane Rita threatened Houston, Texas the two of them announced that they were engaged and were quickly married after that.
Janell fit in well with our family. She and my mother shared stories of being single moms and they developed a kinship that was sweet to observe. Best of all she managed to help my father-in-law smile and laugh again. They were like young newlyweds taking trips to Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Europe. They loved going out to eat and being with family.
Janell redecorated my father-in-law’s home with her colorful flair and brought in the lovely things that she had collected during her lifetime. She gave wonderful parties and pampered my father-in-law with all of his favorite foods while carefully adhering to his diabetic dietary restrictions. The two of them had fun together sitting on the deck in back of their house and visiting with the neighbors. Sometimes they even babysat with Janell’s great granddaughter who delighted them both with her innocent spirit.
I often joked with friends that I got fashion tips from Janell. She really knew how to dress and look like a million dollars no matter where she was going. She and I talked about good books and great places to shop for bargains while my father-in-law and husband worked on the computer. I felt very comfortable with Janell from the very beginning and before I knew it, I realized that she and Mike’s dad had been married for sixteen years.
I understood that Janell had some heart trouble, but with extra care she had managed to forestall any big problems for quite some time. Then her health began to wane..She spent more and more time in the hospital but she remained hopeful that there might be some treatment that would help her improve. Sadly that was not the case. It was so difficult to witness this once vibrant and optimistic woman being sidelined by her illness.
Janell was a very Christian woman. She was a long time member of Second Baptist Church and had even played featured roles in that congregation’s annual Christmas Pageant. The photos of her in costume are as stunning as she always was in person. She and I often spoke about her love of God and her belief that one day there would be a very special place for her in heaven. She had grown very weary of her life of pain and felt God’s call for her to go home.
On June 2, 2022, Janell quietly passed away at the Houston Hospice. She was a good and godly woman, a mother who adored her children, a grandmother who doted on her grandchildren and a wife who loved deeply. We will all miss her smile and her compassion. I feel certain that she is now at peace and that her soul is as beautiful as her outward appearance has always been. Rest in peace, sweet Janell, and thank you for taking care of our Papa over the years.