Janet Garwood, whose love of the arts and strong business sense benefitted Aspen and Snowmass Village for more than 30 years, will be honored this week at a memorial service.
Garwood died Jan. 30 in Florida and will be honored Saturday at a service in Aspen.
Garwood, who at one time was the business manager for The Aspen Times, also helped get the conference center in Snowmass, the Red Brick Arts Center in Aspen and the Living Arts Foundation established, among a variety of other jobs and efforts.
All this when she was near her “retirement age.” In 1984, she left her ancestral roots on the East Coast and drove west in her pale blue four-door sedan for the first time. Janet left fame and fortune behind and drove up into the Rockies to join her second daughter, the dancer and artist Sarah Pletts, here and began again. They were working people and philanthropists.
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They developed a loving friendship and a 30-year relationship of business and art. Continuing in the Paepcke’s dream, they further developed the “Romance of Commerce and Culture.” Together they directed the Living Arts Foundation formed in 1985, a nonprofit devoted philosophically and financially to the power of art and education to protect life on Earth.
Janet first worked in the Roaring Fork Valley at Alpine Bank and then became comptroller of Snowmass Village and helped convince director Kiefer Welch the town should build the conference center. She also arranged for Snowmass Repertory Theatre to have a home there.
She loved theater, and she picked up her delayed acting career with the Hudson Reed Ensemble. In 1943, she had to decline a full acting scholarship to the University of Colorado-Denver. She joyfully played Ms. Daisy, studied scenes with Grace Huffman and appeared in a production of “The Crucible.”
After that, Sarah talked Charles Dale into interviewing her mother for Renaissance Restaurant manager as she had no food service experience. Janet was hired and helped convince Dale’s dad to back the enterprise. While Dale led a fine staff in French cooking, Janet kept a rein on the books, eating gourmet at her desk. Julia Child loved dining there during her trips to the Food & Wine Classic.
After that, Janet became business manager for The Aspen Times. When publisher Bil Dunaway could no longer sit in on Aspen City budget meetings, Janet did, hour after hour, for many years.
Janet served many years on the City of Aspen Grant Program learning about nonprofits, often championing smaller groups and supporting the building of the District Theatre. As president of the Aspen/Snowmass Arts Council, she was a force behind the Real Estate Transfer Tax, which got the Wheeler Opera House renovated.
Janet worked with Sy Coleman, Jerry Bennett, Rachel Richards, Sarah and others to get the Red Brick Center for the Arts and Recreation initiative on the ballot and passed. It passed by three votes! Janet was instrumental in getting the Red Brick Center off the ground, raising money for building finishes and ongoing operations. She convinced Jonathan Lewis to help meet budget.
Janet was business manager for the Sports Medicine Clinic at the Aspen Club and helped dancers, athletes, international sports stars, locals and community luminaries such as Hunter Thompson. She was in good health throughout her life. In this adventure in the clinic, she developed an even stronger body-mind-spirit connection.
Her last full-time job was with Nancy Spears at Creative Events Marketing where they planned national and local events. She was a snow-bird for several years traveling in winter to Florida because it was too hard to walk on ice in Aspen.
Janet was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts, on July 15, 1927. After being adopted she moved to East Boothbay, Maine, where she jumped logs in a mill pond with friends and shimmied out the second floor schoolhouse window down the drain pipe instead of staying in detention. And she really DID walk the 5 miles home alone on a deserted dirt country road to the farm where her mother Alice and father P and her brother Donald waited for her with a hot dinner and P read adventures while she sat in his lap by the fireplace.
At 19 she married Donald Pletts in Brunswick, Maine, and later gave birth to three children.
She helped her husband become an influential national insurance agent. They started the homeowner’s policy in Massachusetts and insured the Teamsters Union helping thousands of working truck drivers live better lives. She was also active in the Congregational Church where she taught the history of Native Americans.
She moved to Miami in the mid-1950s and championed human rights including dismantling segregation with the aid of Larry King and others. She was active in the international women’s group Zonta. Then she took herself to college and graduated in business.
She was living with Sarah in Largo, Florida, and died in a hospital there. The family seeks legal assistance to investigate the unwanted medical treatment, which ended her life too soon.
Janet Garwood is survived by her dear niece Dawn Dwyer of Bath, Maine and her family; her three children, Dr. Lee Pletts Goscin of Largo, Florida; Sarah Pletts of Aspen, and Donald Garwood of Clearwater, Florida. She is also survived by her grandson Dr. Christopher Paul Goscin and his wife, Casey Paxton Goscin of Dallas; and her six beloved great-grandchildren, Hudson, Harper, Hank, Hutch, Hunter and Hope.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that a tax-deductible donation be sent to the Living Arts Foundation, 410 N. Mill St., Aspen, 81611 to further support the rights of elders and other innocents to live and die as they chose.
She said that the 25 best years of her life were with her husband, Donald C. Pletts Sr. And that Aspen was pretty darn good, too. She wrote that she wanted to be remembered this way: “She was a good friend and listener. She read a lot and could be convinced of better ways. She loved to learn.” Her Aspen memorial service will be 1 p.m. Aug. 3 at the North Mill Artists’ Association building (410 N. Mill St.). Please bring food and drink.
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