Janice Lee Panico
You may not have known Jan by name but you might have known her as the beautiful redhead that was a regular on the streets and art galleries of Aspen in the late eighties and nineties. She was always smiling.
Jan and her husband David arrived in Aspen in 1984 on their way from one place to another and with no intention of staying here, but the October skies and the quiet streets lured them in. They found a solar adobe to rent at Tim Howe’s Flying Pig Ranch in Old Snowmass and Jan found work with Michael and Linnea Riley at their shop, The Best of All Worlds.
Jan was already an accomplished graphic artist before arriving in Aspen but the Riley’s helped her develop her artwork into a viable business that licensed her images around the world. Her artwork was also displayed in galleries and restaurants throughout the valley.
Jan had the good luck to be born into a family of jewelry designers and was able to follow her father and grandfather into a position with Tiffany’s. It didn’t hurt that she bore a certain resemblance to a red-headed Audrey Hepburn and she was employed shortly after the release of the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Instead of jewelry design she broke from the family tradition and became a window dresser, apprenticing with Gene Moore, who was credited with revolutionizing the concept of window display and merchandising in the late ‘60s.
While her professional accomplishments gave her satisfaction, there were two other points of pride in her later life. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, she traveled with a group of women from Aspen to aid in the rescue of abandoned animals from New Orleans. The gang spent three weeks doing what needed to be done in the effort. Her dedication was rewarded with the adoption of our pup, Daisy.
Her other point of pride was her participation in The Buddy Program. In 2006 she was paired with her 8 year old buddy, Johanna Vasquez. They formed an unusual bond, while most pairings tend to ebb and flow, Jan and Johanna remained paired for 11 years. In the weeks before Jan’s passing she learned that Johanna will be attending C.U. Colorado Springs in the Fall.
Over the years Jan and her husband David had the great good fortune to have been adopted into a group of Aspen’s misfits, wierdos, goofballs and fellow travelers that became their large and loving family. To imagine how empty her life would have been without this amazing group of friends would be unimaginable.
Jan fought her cancer for a year or so and for awhile it looked like she might have it beaten. Her wonderful team at Valley View cautiously determined that she was cancer free. For two months she pretended to live a normal life. But….cancer, being the sneaky bastard that it is, had snuck in the back door and, quickly, the game was over. She died at home with her husband and the pups.
Two days after Jan’s passing, at a friend’s cabin in the forest, Stella, our wonderful 15 year old Cattle Dog, decided that her job was done here and vanished into the woods, never to be seen again. The good part of me wants to believe that Stella ran ahead to Jan and nudged her in the leg, and they continued on their journey together.
A celebration of Jan’s life will be held at a time and place to be determined.
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